7 Strategies to Help Your Child Settle and Thrive at Their New School

By Aylssa Cowell
August 28, 2022
 min read
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Moving schools can be extremely stressful for both parents and teens. While some teens thrive at the prospect of starting again, others dread the idea of walking into a new school for the first time.

If your child is about to start a new school, here are 7 strategies that can help:

  1. Give your child some control about which school they attend
    This is not always possible, but if it is, giving your child the choice of which school to attend in their new country gives them a sense of control over the process which may make it easier.
  2. Ask the school if they can be put in touch with other students before they start
    Some schools have a formalized Buddy System, whereby new students are paired with another student in their class. Others have a much more informal network through social media that your child, depending on their age, could reach out to to ask questions about the school before they start. Either way this will help them find a familiar face on their first day.
  3. Prepare them for the first day of school
    Their first day is bound to be a mixture of nerves and hopefully excitement. Ask the school for a program of what will happen on their first day and what equipment they will need. Some schools may offer a tour of the school before they start that will help them feel more comfortable on the first day.
  4. Provide them with opportunities to make new friends
    Many schools have excellent and varied extra-curricular activities that your child can get involved with. It is easier to spark up conversations when you are doing something you love, or involved in a shared activity.
  5. Allow them to remain in contact with their old friends
    This can sound counterintuitive and you may become frustrated that they seem to want to spend more time chatting with their old friends than cultivating new ones. However when everything is new around them, people seek comfort in the familiar and for your child that will be old friends. Usually this will lessen as time goes on as they start to settle in their new school.
  6. Empathetically listen & acknowledge what they’ve lost
    It is a normal part of the transition process to feel overwhelmed, homesick, anxious and incredibly sad as well as angry sometimes. Empathic listening is when you acknowledge the emotion and the reason for it, for example: ‘you’re sad because you miss your friends’. This is a really simple but effective way to make your child feel heard. Acknowledging loss, which again sounds counterintuitive, helps them process it and move on more quickly. Unresolved loss, where someone hasn’t had time or opportunity to process all they have left behind is often behind expat or repatriation depression.
  7. Ask them to reflect on what is going well
    Sometimes we get so caught up in the negatives we neglect to acknowledge what is going well and the strengths our children have. What has been good about today? What do they like about their new school?

Adjusting to a new school and a new country takes time. Some parents find that their children initially settle well but after the honeymoon period ends they start becoming sad and overwhelmed. Some parents find that their child’s grades are initially lower - please be mindful that not only is your child learning a new curriculum, they are also learning names, expectations and the environment - it is to be expected and it can take up to a year for them to truly settle. 

If your child is really struggling to adjust, seeking out the help of a counselor or a clinical psychologist can also help.

To learn more and discuss your situation I invite you to book a FREE consultation with me.

You can make a booking here.

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About the Author

Aylssa Cowell

Aylssa Cowell is a Child & Adolescent Counsellor and provides 1-1 counselling for globally mobile children, adolescents and adults that is strengths based and solution focused.

She helps her young clients through the transitions of living abroad and can help them manage  anxiety, grief, overwhelm, depression, and trauma.

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