Whether you’re already living here or looking to move here; changing schools and moving country is a rite of passage for expat children. We asked Mark Petterson, Senior Years Counsellor at GEMS World Academy (Singapore), for his advice in making the transition as easy as possible.
How can parents lay the groundwork for a smooth transition between schools?
The thought of transitioning to a new grade, school or country can make many of us feel slightly apprehensive. However, it can also be viewed as something new, exciting and positively challenging. One of the many important elements relating to a successful transition is promoting a “growth mindset”. A person with a growth mindset believes they can learn anything they want to, or constantly wants to challenge themselves. The opposite is a fixed mindset, which views transitions as too hard.
In addition, parents can ensure that the communication lines with their child remain open and strong. Let your child know that you understand how they’re feeling and what they’re going through is important – they may require some reassurance that everything will be OK.
What can parents do if they notice their child having difficulty?
Transitions take time, especially as students begin to develop skills including adaptability and resilience. Parents naturally want the transition to be a smooth process but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. There can be a tendency to “jump in” and “rescue” their child when, and if, they see them struggling. This is instinctive, but as difficult as it is, know that it’s OK to allow your child to struggle at times.
You may observe a change in your child’s mood. Speak to them about their challenges but empower them to find ways to improve their current situation. This a great time to provide a bit of guidance – though do stop short of completely taking over. And remain patient! All children need to be given time to find their feet within their new surrounds.
How does GWA (Singapore) assist children to settle in?
From the initial school tours through to eventual enrolment, the objective is to ensure that we “know our learner” – your child. We find out as much as we can about our students prior to commencement – interests, strengths and areas for improvement. This information assists in the decisions about class placements, the selection of a transition buddy and like-minded students to support a child’s arrival.
Our homeroom system provides pastoral support including a personal, social and health education programme; and homeroom teachers can refer students for additional counselling support if need be.
Finally, our open-door policy encourages any parent to meet with a teacher, counsellor or administrator to discuss their child’s progress. I regularly meet with families of new students to discuss transitions, and often to provide reassurance that everything will work out well – which I truly believe it will.
How to encourage a growth mindset
- Reframe any negativity. For example, “I won’t know anyone at this school” can be reframed as “You will have the opportunity to meet and make even more friends”.
- Ask your child to reflect and remember the times when they overcame adversity and difficult situations. This encourages a “can do” mentality.
- Replace negatives with positives. If your child finds something negative about the transition, be sure to respond with a positive – this also helps challenge them to find a positive for themselves.
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