Many expats are returning to Singapore once again after summer holidays and getting ready for the start of the International School year. Whether your kids are headed to a new school or returning to their “old” school after a long summer break, the transition can be difficult. We’ve got some tips to help your little (or not so little) ones settle in.
- Establish your school year routine quickly and stick to it (consistent bedtimes, homework time, screen time, etc.)
- Make sure you and your kids know which bus they are taking, where and when pick up and drop off are. If they are young enough to ride with a bus auntie, introduce yourself and let them know you are new and trying to settle in.
- Talk to your kids about any worries and anxieties they might be feeling and assure them it is totally normal. If you are new to Singapore (and your kids are old enough) share your own feelings about settling in and making new friends. It can help them to see how you are coping and teach them healthy social skills.
- Ask your kids about their school day and have them share their work. Your enthusiasm about their new school, school projects, and curriculum can rub off on them. If you get into the habit of asking them about their days, they may grow more willing to share how they are feeling.
- If your child is clinging, crying and very upset, resist the urge to burst into tears too! If you are calm and confident, they will respond. Tell them school is fun and safe and you will return at the end of the day. While it may be difficult (ok, very difficult) to leave your child distraught, remember that the teachers are trained in helping kids to settle in. Try not to linger too much as it can make your child more upset. Generally kids will soon start engaging and playing with other kids and calm down quickly.
- Reassure them (again and again) of their schedule and what to expect at drop-off, during the school day and at pick up. Sometimes it is just the fear of the unknown that causes them anxiety.
- If you can, visit the school and their classroom with them before the start of the year. The more they see their new surroundings, the more comfortable they will begin to feel.
- Talk to the teachers and school administrators about your concerns and work with them to create a settling in plan so you have peace of mind. Teachers of younger students know this can be a difficult transition for the whole family.
- Remember you know your child best and trust your instincts. While most experts agree that lingering during drop off is not helpful for your child, perhaps you know from experience your child responds better to a little extra hug or chat. There is no “right way” to settle in to school. Do what is best for you and your child.
- Get to know some of the other parents and start planning a couple playdates. The more familiar the faces in the classroom become, the more quickly your child will settle in.
For Primary and Secondary School Kids
- Encourage them to seek out other new students. International schools and students are used to friends coming and going. Your child is surely not the only “new kid” at school. Finding the other new students can be very comforting!
- Remind them that everyone else was also new once. Even if there is only one other student who is new, nearly everyone can relate to first day/early school day jitters. Encourage your child to seek out students who are friendly and welcoming.
- If your child is reluctant to initiate connections, invite some families over for a social gathering. You can get to know the parents and your child doesn’t have to feel the burden of inviting. Everyone wins!
- Encourage him or her to join in extracurricular activities to meet other kids. Schools these days have heaps of clubs, activities and sports where they can meet others with similar interests.
- Hide a note or special treat in their bag that they will find during the day. This fun and easy trick helps to brighten anyone’s day and will remind your child they are loved and not alone (when they may be feeling the exact opposite).
- Try to limit their time online browsing through “old” friends’ pictures and/or discourage them from thinking about “what they are missing” (at their old school). Encourage them to focus on what they are gaining at their new school.
- Ensure your kids know where to go if they are feeling lost or alone. While teachers can be great helping new kids to settle in, most international schools also have counsellors who can help.
- If you have other children at the school, encourage them to check in with their siblings. Even if they don’t have a great relationship, they may appreciate the familiar face more then they think!
- Be patient. Everyone settles in differently and at different times. Moving countries and schools can be a bit overwhelming for some kids. Give your child the time, space and support to adjust.
For more back to school topics, click here.
By Kathleen Siddell, August 2015