The first day at a new school can be daunting – new classmates, new teachers and new routines can all be overwhelming, no matter how old your child is. Throw into the mix that many expat families may also be dealing with getting to grips with a new city and culture, and there’s plenty to consider. Whether your kids are beginning their school career or are transferring from another school, here’s some practical advice from DAVID SHEEHAN, Head of Pastoral Care at Nord Anglia International School, on how to make the transition as smooth as possible.
#1 Get familiar
Firstly, David advises parents joining a new school that it’s important to attend the school’s orientation and welcome events as this will help you understand the school’s ethos and approach, and allows you to meet teachers. It may even be possible to tour the school with your child so you can familiarise yourselves with the classrooms and playgrounds in advance.
#2 First-day preparations
When it comes to your child’s first day at their new school, make sure you have their uniforms and school bags ready so your preparation is stress-free and you’re not late on the first day. You should begin to adjust bed-times in the week leading up so that your children have adapted to the right time to wake up for school.
#3 Take it slowly
Once the new school year is underway, give your children time to adjust to their new routines, as these can be an enormous shift – especially for young children. Ease them into extra-curricular activities and playdates gradually. But do remember that joining a club or group can be a good way to make some new friends.
#4 Join the PTA
David says another great way to get involved in the school community and get to know other parents is through the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Most associations organise events through the year that require volunteer assistance. This gives parents who are new to the school an opportunity to meet other families and compare notes.
#5 Pastoral care
Find out if your new school has a pastoral care program. Nord Anglia has one, and it provides support and resources to ensure the holistic development of students at the school. If you feel your child is struggling in certain areas, the pastoral care team can provide additional help and advice.
#6 Peer support
Some schools also have peer support programs. At Nord Anglia, this is provided in several ways. Upon joining the school, all children are assigned to a house, which means the Head of House, who is a staff member, will get to know you and your child through their progress through the school. In the primary school, the first point of care is the class teacher, who monitors and supports the holistic development of your children across the year. In the secondary school, this is the role of the House Tutor, who is a staff member providing the daily contact point with your child and who can act as a source of advice, personal and academic support.
#7 Keep talking
If your child does come home with worries and concerns about their new school, try not to jump in with promises to sort things out. Just listen to, and acknowledge, what they are saying. Pass the information to the staff at school so that they are aware and can assist, but give your child time to work it out.
David suggests to try and manage subsequent conversations you have about school with positive things that they have enjoyed that day. Focusing on the negative aspects is addictive and doesn’t help your child to appreciate their new experience. Lead the conversations from the start with questions like “What did you enjoy doing today?” and “What was the best thing about your day today?”
#8 Parental support
With older children, particularly teenagers, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open about how they are adapting. Making friends at a new school can be tricky when friendship groups are more established – be prepared that an older child can need a lot of background support from parents.
This article was brought to you by:
Nord Anglia International School, Hong Kong
11 On Tin Street, Lam Tin, Kowloon
Stay in the loop of what’s happening in Hong Kong? Join our mailing list!
New to Hong Kong? Check out these social clubs and associations.