Moving schools is always hard. Moving schools mid-year is even harder. We moved our daughter half way through a term when we moved to Bangkok. My advice based on this? Avoid it if you can.
And in an ideal world, we would avoid it. Every move would be timed to coincide with the start of the school year. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world with moves happen quickly, changes are taking place all the time and we are often expected to move within weeks of contracts being signed.
So how do you make this move as pain-free as possible – for your kids and for you?
Before you go – prepare your kids
If your kids are starting a school mid-year then they will also be leaving a school mid-year. This will mean you will have to work harder to help them get closure. Give your child the opportunity to talk about how they feel about moving, and the opportunity to say their goodbyes.
My children are still in primary school, and with each move we have had a party to celebrate and say goodbye before we leave. Friendship books are a big hit with us.
Speak to the teacher at the school you are leaving – most teachers want to help and perhaps will do something special for the student in class.
Depending on the age of your children, make sure they have ways of communicating with their friends if they want to. But also be realistic with them about this – they aren’t going to be able to Skype all their friends every day.
When you arrive – prepare your kids!
It’s a good idea to get a visit of the school for your children before they start so that they can begin to visualise what it will be like. Find out if they can meet the teachers in advance, and even a few students from their class.
Will the curriculum be the same? Do you need to prepare your child for more tests – or less? This is going to be of greater importance as your child progresses through her school career, and any advice you can get from the school on how to manage the academic transition will be helpful.
Can you find out a sample schedule so you can talk your child through their school day – for some children, having clarity about recess time is very reassuring! Lunch times can be stressful, so if they know already where they will be going at lunchtime and what type of lunch to expect, that can also reassure them.
Is there are uniform? Have you got all the equipment they are going to need? This was my big stress when we moved to Germany – we had always had school uniforms, and the thought of my kids deciding on their outfit every day sent me into a panic!!
Find the fun
One of the things that makes moving schools mid-year difficult is that friendships are often formed at the start of the school year. Finding the fun means looking for ways to help your child make friends – but also focussing on all the good things your new home has to offer.
Organising playdates is a great idea in the first few weeks – and if you can manage to sort out some playdates before they start school, so much the better.
What are your children interested in? Are there sports groups or clubs they can join? What extra curricular activities does the school offer?
Making plans as a family about what you will do at weekends is a nice way of giving your children a feeling of control and keeping a positive attitude about the move. And now is a great time to stick to – or invent – family rituals…movie nights, weekend breakfasts together, board games on a Sunday. A sense of ‘sameness’ is always comforting when so many other things are changing.
And in all of this, remember yourself. Moving mid-way through a school year is hard on the parents, too. Friendship groups have often already formed and it can seem like everyone else is doing great and you are on the periphery. From my own experience, the only way to get through this is by putting yourself out there. Ask people over for coffee. Find out of there are any clubs you can join. Are there any nights out planned? If not – organise one!
If you have the time, getting involved at the school is also a great idea – schools are usually always keen to have volunteers help out. It means you will feel part of the community more quickly and you’ll get to meet lots of people. I have found that it has helped me understand what’s going on at school and that has been helpful. I’ve also found I’ve had to be prepared to say ‘no’ sometimes – school volunteering can become a full time job!
Probably the most important thing. Keep the lines of communication open with your children. Be upfront and acknowledge their feelings – even if they are negative. Listen to them.
Find out whether the school has resources or services to help children with the transition. Some children move schools with no problems whatsoever. Others don’t, and need more support.
Be a positive role model for your children, and show them that even if you find things difficult, you will persevere and things will work out. This is true regardless of whether you are moving schools mid-year or not. More advice on moving with kids can be found here.
And finally, advice from a teacher on moving schools mid-year
One of the wonderful first grade teachers at our current school gave me the following advice. An expat herself, she has over twenty years’ teaching experience. She has taught in the US, the UK, Japan and Germany, so has also helped more than a few students transition!
- Don’t forget to get copies of your child’s academic records! It’s easy to miss this in the chaos of a move, but it is so helpful to the ‘new’ teacher.
- How does your child learn? What does she enjoy doing in the classroom environment? If you can find out about this from your child’s current teacher, it will be invaluable to the new teacher in helping them feel comfortable in their new class as quickly as possible.
- What does your child like to do? What are they good at? Is there something they can share with the class in their first week at school to help build their self-confidence?
- If the teacher has questionnaires, make time to fill them in, and talk to the teacher about them so that they get to know your child as quickly as possible. No-one knows your child as well as you!