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Updated 9 Mar 2020

Expat families are embarking on an exciting adventure together, but in many cases, the children face unique challenges that adults should keep in mind throughout the transition period. From very young children who are leaving the only environment they have ever known, to older students who must say goodbye to their peers and social groups; everyone has something that makes them feel scared, stressed or nervous about the move.

Parents who want to help ease the burden of this transition and alleviate their children's fear will need to recognise the importance of selecting a school that is right for their children.

Worries and fears of expat children

Parents who are planning to move abroad should be aware of the various concerns their children may have about the upcoming transition. Some common fears among expatriate children include:

  • Their ability to fit in with their new classmates. Children of all ages are often apprehensive about making new friends in a different social setting. Fitting in with their new classmates is a primary concern among expat children who are forced to leave all of their current friends behind.
  • Their need to feel welcomed in a new environment. Children are going to want to feel welcomed —not only by the students but also by the instructors and administrators at their new school.
  • Their ability to succeed academically in a different country. Older children, in particular, may be worried about the curriculum of their new school and whether that will impact their long-term academic success.

How to prepare children for a new school

One of the best ways to prepare your child for their new school is to help them get to know their new environment beforehand. It can be helpful for children to see the school building and understand the academic programmes available there. Some schools offer virtual tours, which can provide your child with visual tools that will help them feel more at ease once they arrive. 

You may also be able to set up a pre-consultation phone call, where you and your child can talk with a school administrator in advance and learn more about life in the classroom. A welcoming and inclusive school will have a plan in place to make sure your child is prepared prior to their arrival.

Factors to consider when selecting an international school

These are some of the most important factors to consider when selecting an international school.

  • Find a school that prioritises kindness and inclusivity. One World International School in Singapore, for example, has a Kindness Council that aims to incorporate kindness and compassion into every aspect of the school.
  • Choose a school with a diverse student body. In a multicultural environment, expatriate children are less likely to feel isolated or different.
  • Consider an international school in which the staff members, instructors and teachers are accustomed to students transferring in and out throughout the year. They understand the adjustment process and can work with each student on an individual level to ensure their needs are being met.

Benefits of sending your child to a kind school

When you choose to send your child to an international school that is both welcoming and kind, they are likely to adjust to their new environment more easily. These schools provide both students and families with the resources they need throughout the entire transition period, and the professionals at these schools monitor students closely to verify that they are adapting successfully.

It's important to remember that your children will be spending the majority of their time at school. A kind school with a multicultural environment will help your child feel accepted and welcomed immediately, which is the first step toward feeling like their new country is now their home.

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