This summer we're starting a new series for children and their adjustment. This series is being hosted by Nextpat in collaboration with Kim Adams of Resilient Expats. In addition to this article, we have a wonderful Back-to-School guide that can be downloaded from Nextpat's website. We'll also be examining challenges of returning to the U.S. for college later in the year. If you have a burning question about kids' adjustments or a great story about the challenges your kids faced and how they overcame them, please reach out!
Now, on to the good stuff!
People have a few basic needs (beyond the basics ;)): They need to feel a sense of belonging. They need to be able to make choices and to feel a degree of control in their lives. And they need to have fun! (Adults might call it joy or fulfillment, or the combination of happiness and meaning.) What does this look like in the context of starting a new school? Especially in a new place with fewer international students and where differences are less obvious.
Remember you're not only changing school, but adapting to a new city and culture too. For more resources on this topic, see Nextpat’s article on how to prepare kids for a move. A few of the most important strategies to help kids cope are outlined in Sue Holloway's article in Global Living Magazine: How to Help Your Kids Cope with Culture Shock.
In short, getting “buy in” from your kids will go a long way in meeting their needs for control, choice, fun and belonging. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions when preparing for a new school. For more specific ideas check out our Back-to-School Guide.
Give your kids as much notice as possible and encourage their questions.
Give your kids ample opportunities to ask questions, and take all questions seriously. Let kids lead through their questions, rather than front-loading lots of information. Usually they’ll absorb only what they’re ready for. At the same time, try to figure out and answer your child’s underlying questions.