Adjusting to a new school can be a difficult transition for your children - it’s a new pool of students, they have to familiarize themselves with a new campus, they could be going into a new curriculum, or starting school in a new country, so many things are different than they were before.
As parents, we understand you want to do anything and everything to help make this time easier on your child. Thankfully, there are ways to ease this transition.
Below we explore eight ways to help your children adjust to their new school and cover some frequently asked questions about attending a new school. We also include some resources you can look into for further information.
What can you, as a parent, do to ease your child’s transition into a new school?
Whatever age your child is, whether they speak English as a first language or another language, such as Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Dutch or others, whether they are outgoing or an introvert, transitioning to a new school can be challenging.
Teachers, staff, and current students will all do their best to help your child feel at home in their new school, but you as their parent can follow the eight steps below to help make this adjustment easier.
1. Give yourself and your child permission to actually feel the stress
By giving both you and your child permission to feel out their emotions and embracing the RULER methodology as outlined by Marc Brackett, a professor at Yale University’s Child Study Center, there will be a significant reduction in stress and burnout, and an improvement in your child’s school perceptions and academic performance.
The RULER acronym stands for:
2. Take care of yourself
You can’t pour from an empty cup!
You’re most likely focusing entirely on how your child is coping with this adjustment period, so it’s probably slipping your mind to check in with yourself. That’s why we included you in the previous section along with your child. Acknowledge your feelings, give yourself permission to feel the stress, and monitor your emotional reactions - especially in front of the children.
This can be a difficult time for all of those involved, so it’s important to take time during your days to do something you enjoy.
3. Keep open communication with your children, teachers and fellow parents
Communication is key with most things in life, and the adjustment into a new school is no exception.
Your fellow parents have been in your shoes and know exactly what you’re going through, so don’t be afraid to draw on this resource. Teachers are the ones who spend the day with your children, they see what you may not when your child is at home. Reach out to your child’s educators and ask them how your child is doing.
Maintaining open communication with your child is essential well beyond this adjustment period, but it’s important to tailor your conversation to help best prepare them for this transition. Talk to your child about their new school, take them on a campus tour if you are able, ask if they have any questions, and prepare them for the learning transition.
4. Prepare for the learning transition
A common reason to change schools is to seek out a new curriculum and environment that provides for greater opportunities in the future.
At International School Bangkok (ISB), for example, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (DP) is offered in Grade 11 and 12.
The IB DP is a challenging two-year pre-university curriculum. Graduates earn a diploma widely recognized by the world’s leading universities, with many schools awarding advanced standing or credit for completed IB courses or diplomas.
Academic programs, such as the IB, may be more academically rigorous than what your child is used to, so it’s important to take your children through what the learning will be like at their new school.
Other changes in curriculum and learning could be seen in the way assessments are given, what standards are being used, and how much homework children receive after school. Try to understand as much as you can before your child starts and share this with them. Also take time to join any parent evenings and workshops on offer (there are a number of these for parents at ISB), which explain the type of learning your child will be doing, so that you have enough information to support them.
If language is a barrier, talk to your children about what they can expect, acknowledge where they’re at and what they’re about to face academically. Also ensure that the school has ample support for second language English learners.
Are you looking ahead to applying to a Japanese university and want to make sure ISB is the right choice for your child's end goal? Visit our guide to applying to Japanese universities and see for yourself how our program at ISB helps prepare for the next stages in their life.
5. Draw on resources from the school
A school with experience in supporting new intakes of students, from different parts of the world, will be well equipped with resources to make the transition seamless for new families.
At ISB, for example, the school counseling program meets with new students and families before they start school to discuss subject selection and any personal learning needs. Counselors help students settle into the school through new student lunches, monitoring for friendships, and providing orientation programs. There is also a student ambassador program that welcomes in new Middle School and High School students, helping students make new friends and integrate into the school.
There is also a department in High School specifically focused on college counseling. If you’re concerned about your children’s pathway into a university in another country, there are counselors who can address your concerns.
If language is a barrier for your children, we also recommend reaching out to the school’s Native Language and English as an Additional Language (EAL) programs. At ISB, for example, the Native Language Programs are offered both during and after the school day. These classes will help your children feel both culturally and linguistically at home.
The EAL program at ISB helps English as a second language learners be successful in their academic work as well as in everyday communication. Rather than replace students’ native language, the EAL program focuses on helping students acquire English as an additional language.
An additional resource we provide to prospective ISB families is an essential guide to transferring international schools, where you'll learn helpful tips and an FAQ we compiled to answer our most common questions.
6. Embrace and encourage school involvement
This is both for you and your children.
One of the easiest ways to make a new school feel like home is to get involved with activities, athletics and/or clubs - this is also a phenomenal way to make friends.
As a parent, there are also many opportunities to get involved with your children’s new school. For example, at ISB there is the Parent Teacher Auxiliary, the Welcome Wai, adult education, community and school reps and the Booster Club all which help bring the school community together.
7. Explore and enjoy your new location
By now, you probably are well versed in how adjusting to a new school can be a stressful experience, but what many people forget is this should also be exciting. There’s a new campus to explore, new facilities to use and new people to meet. We recommend signing up for a school tour to really get to know your way around.
Another great way to get your children to enjoy this process is to encourage them to make friends.
8. Routine, routine, routine
Structure and familiarity will help your children feel comfortable in their new school. If they played certain sports, had the same breakfast everyday, got to eat at the school cafeteria on Fridays, etc. keep those routines consistent in the new school.