The majority of expat kids, together with their parents, experience the worry associated with moving to another country. The chances are good that as an expat mother or father, you will have to relocate at some stage and this means facing the fact that your kids will have to start afresh, at a school in the country you’re relocating to. It is a natural reaction for both kids and their mum to be worried. Your children’s personality, as well as their ages at the time of the move, is sure to affect the impact it has on them. Moving can be a traumatic experience, but thorough planning and in-depth research will make the transition a more pleasant experience for everyone. Following are 9 steps to help your kids settle in at their schools in Malta.
1. Talk about the move as soon as possible in a happy, positive way
Find out as soon as you can when you will be moving and start talking to your kids about it. Let these talks be happy and positive. Your attitude of excitement will pass onto your kids and they will react a lot better when the big day arrives.
Tell them the reasons for your move and let them see in no uncertain terms, that you’re extremely happy about the upcoming relocation. Tell them everything about the new country, including the food, the weather, language and culture is going to be different and that even though you’re going to be far away from family and friends, it’s going to be a fantastic adventure for everyone.
2. Make sure to choose the right learning facility for your kids
You will need to do plenty of research about the education system in your new country. Private or public institutions are your choices and depend entirely on your preferences as well as the quality of the public system.
Public facilities offer a more intense language education which, in the long run, will help your kids to easily become integrated and identify with life in their new country.
Should you be able to afford sending your kids to one of the international or private institutions, you will be giving them the opportunity to learn the new language at a slower, less frantic pace. In addition to this, international facilities help to ease the cultural shock for kids, since they will more than likely be able to communicate in their mother tongue while they are learning the new language.
Your kids will also have contact with others in an international institution that are in the same situation as them. However, make sure to encourage your kids to talk to and make friends with the kids in your neighbourhood as well.
3. Visit the school before the new year
Try to take your kids to visit the school before the new year, without the presence of hundreds of other kids. This will give them the opportunity to have a look around and become familiar with their new learning environment without any pressure.
Give them some time to play in the grounds and see for themselves how much fun they’re going to have. Another good idea is to let them meet their own teacher and other educators too, if possible.
Introducing them to their new learning facility and teacher/s beforehand will eliminate the trauma them having to deal with the fear of the unknown.
4. Expect a few tears
Even if you’re one of those parents who consider themselves lucky to have offspring who can deal with any situation without causing a fuss, rather expect a few tears. Almost every child feels anxious when facing a big change in their life. Even if they don’t seem anxious on the first day, the reality of the huge change that’s happened in their life might only kick in after a few days, once the novelty has worn off.
Expect the first few weeks to be a bit rough. The anxiety may last for longer or shorter of course, but will only become a problem if, after a few months, your child is still unhappy.
5. Let them take a “comfort” item with them to school
If your kids are still young, they probably have an object that gives them psychological comfort. These items are especially useful when kids are trying to deal with abnormal situations.
Encourage them to take their favourite object with them and if they’re shy about it, they can keep it in their bag without anyone knowing that they have it with them.
6. Remember: a quick, relaxed drop-off is best!
Once you’ve worked out a school drop off routine that suits you best, stick to it! Your kids will get used to it and know what to expect every morning. Take them to the drop off area; give them a quick hug and a kiss, then leave immediately.
It is heart-rending when your child cries after you leave, but do not be tempted to linger longer, as this will just make the parting for both of you more painful. Besides, they might use this as a lever to make you stay longer. This is a cycle that is hard to break once it has been allowed to develop.
Be nonchalant, stay calm, tell them you’ll be there to pick them up later on and then leave.
7. Never make light of your child’s feelings
It’s dangerous to make light of your child’s concerns when he/she is discussing them with you. Moving to a new school in a new country is something huge that they’re expected to handle, as small as they are. Telling them to not worry is almost the same as saying to them that they are weak or stupid to feel anxious.
Just like adults, kids have feelings too. Be understanding about their fears and handle them in the best possible way that you can. Let your child express his/her feelings. Rather than disregard his worries, help him/her to overcome them.
8. Help your kids to make new friends
Once the scholastic year starts, your child will probably develop a friendship with other kids within the first couple of weeks. Encourage these friendships and do what you can to help them grow, by arranging sleepovers or play days, for instance. You can also sign your kids up for extra-mural activities, to encourage even more new friendships to blossom.
9. Have patience!
Adjusting to a new life doesn’t happen over night, as you well know, so give your kids the space and time they need to adapt. The chances are good that they will they will take less time than you to adjust and learn the language.
Have patience when you drop them off in the mornings, when they’re worried, or when you have to deal with the mood swings and anger that could arise. Remember, this is happening because you relocated them from the place they liked and were familiar with. They need time to adjust to the new life, surroundings and schools in Malta.
Plenty of careful planning, meticulous research and preparation are required to make relocation to a foreign country an exciting experience. This is the perfect guide to have both you and your children thriving and enjoying life to the fullest in Malta, your new adopted country.