See the new environment
Families often do not use their new school until the start of the school year. I always suggest to my parents who are moving to call the school and ask them if you can bring the children in to see their new environment. This often takes some anxiety off the first day of school, but it also allows you the opportunity to ‘run into’ other new families or those families that are involved with the school. These are both valuable resources. You can ask them, “Where do kids this age play or hangout?” as you point to your own children. You ask them, “What are you finding to do while your family is still in the rental apartment? Sometimes this on-site visit gives your child the opportunity to see what other kids are wearing so they don’t get completely surprised on that first day of school. This can be very important if the school does not have an uniform. Most kids just want to belong and not stick out too much.
Get a local resource person
Use the school secretary as a resource. Ask the school staff, “Where is the best playground around here?” – “What activities do kids in this school get involved in?” I have had students take a weekend class on pottery to find out that a child in that class would also be in their grade or classroom in a few days. Make sure your child understands how many sections or classrooms there will be with kids their own age. When a child moves from a huge school to a small school it is important for them to realize how important first impressions might be because there is a smaller pool of possible friends. This also is important if your child is going from a very small school to a larger school. Often the first days of school have grade level assemblies or school assemblies, your child needs to know if these will be in a group of 40+ or 400+. The more information a child has on their new environment, the more in control they might feel.
Proper use of “Family Time”
Use family time as “out of home time” not “bonding in your personal environment”. The more exposure your child has to get around the new town, eating at the local places close to school and knowing the names of the large streets or apartment buildings gives them more to talk about the first two days of schools when friendships are being formed. Often we are stuck in a service apartment while waiting for the shipment to clear customs. This means we have very little to do and can easily get on each other’s nerves. Take that energy and go out to explore the new environment.
#1 Rule for Success
My number one rule to all parents is – Do not show up late to the start of the school year. Friendships form so easily that a kid that misses out on the teacher trying to make class connections with peers, he/she will suffer. This also means do not show up to school with an overly tired child. Getting off a plane on Sunday to start school on Monday can set up a child for social failure. As parents of global families, what has been your “rule of thumb” or “success strategies” that work for you family? I’d love to hear them.
Contributed by Julia Simens, an American writer who has lived on five continents and raised two TCKs. Her book "Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: practical storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family" is commonly found in many international schools and embassies where she gives talks to parents, teachers and families living a global lifestyle. Find her blog at http://www.jsimens.com