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Starting at a New School

By World Family Education

Going to a different school is a challenge, even in a child’s home culture. Living internationally adds a whole new dimension to this major life change.

Major life transitions involve several phases of adjustment. Read more about Transitions and how to handle them successfully from World Family Education.

Moving to a new culture involves many transitions, and changing schools is a big one. Your child will need to adjust to many differences in their new school, whether it’s an international school or local school. Some of them may be:

  • a different school culture — The ethos of the school will be different, and discipline styles, interaction with teachers, and school rules may change. There may be cultural differences in the way a student shows respect to a teacher.
  • new cross-cultural friendships — Your child’s new friends will likely be from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
  • a different curriculum style — Every school is different. Even if curriculum at the new school is similar to what your child has used before, there will be differences in how it’s applied. Your child may also need to adjust to a very different curriculum program. They may need to repeat a year of study due this difference.
  • new language — Your child may need to adapt to instruction in a different language. This may require tutoring and support outside of the classroom. They may also have to repeat a year of study due to the language difference.
  • different school calendar — School calendars vary from country to country. Sometimes children are several months behind in school or they need to repeat a half year of school when they transition to a new school.

From your child’s perspective, a new school can either be an adventure or a stressor — or perhaps a blend of both. Supporting your child through this transition will help them navigate their new environment and even thrive there.

Before You Move

Children often resist change and can feel anxiety about going to a new school. If your child is moving schools, the best thing you can do is prepare them for the adjustment.

Including them in the process of choosing and moving schools is a good way to do this. It will help your child have ownership of the decision and see positive aspects of the move. Allowing them to express their concerns can help you see the situation through your child’s eyes.

Other ways to help your child prepare for the move are:

  • Exploring information about the new school (usually on the school’s website) together with your child.
  • Organizing a farewell party with close friends.
  • Making a scrapbook of people, activities, and memories from the old school.
  • Sharing your new mailing address with your child’s close friends. You can give them pre-addressed and stamped envelopes so that they can write to your child. Older children can stay in touch by email or social media.

After You Arrive

Once you are in your new location, you can help your child connect in person. Communication with the school’s principal and your child’s new teacher(s) will help to establish a good relationship right away.

  • Walk around the grounds and buildings of the new school with your child. This will help your child get to know where the important things are.
  • Make sure your child knows how to get to and from school — for example, where you’ll pick them up and drop them off, which way to walk if they’re walking, or where the bus stops or train stations are.
  • Talk to your child’s new teacher. Ask about the school’s strategies for helping new children adjust to the school.
  • If English isn’t your child’s first language, ask the school about support programs and services that can help.
  • If your child has special needs, talk to the new school about its facilities and support programs.

When School Begins

Once school has begun, take some time to help your child settle in.

  • Meet with your child’s new principal or teacher. You could set up a review meeting within the first week or two to see how things are going.
  • Make sure your child has the right equipment and clothes for any special school activities. Children are often concerned about fitting in, and this can help.
  • If possible, get a copy of your child’s weekly schedule so that you know what your child needs each day.
  • Find out whether the school offers extracurricular activities and how to sign up for these.

You can help your child get the most out of school by building relationships with others in the school community — parents, teacher, students — from the very first day. It’s a good idea to get involved with school activities and functions for families whenever you can.

More Helpful Links

Preparing Your Child for the New School Year — Good ideas from Aha! Parenting for supporting your child as they adjust to a new school.

How to help your child settle in a new school — The Expat Child offers helpful tips for international families.

How Can You Help Your Child Adjust to a Foreign School — Louisa Heath offers good ideas to support your child in a new school.

10 Things I’ve Learned From Being the New Kid in High School — A high schooler at Huffington Post offers advice to teens adjusting to a new school.

Starting or Changing School — The National Autistic Society of Ireland gives advice to parents of autistic children for adjusting to a new school.

Source “Moving Schools.” Retrieved May 25, 2019, from