The power of storytelling

Anastasia Cotton, ACS International Schools’ Assistant Dean for Overseas Admissions, shares her advice on how to help relocating children feel at ease.

ACS Hillingdon
Moving to a new house is one thing, moving schools something bigger, but moving house, school and country all at once would present a huge challenge for any of us, so just imagine how it appears to a young child.Helping a child through a major transition requires preparation and the development of coping strategies; this is where the great power of storytelling can really help.Throughout my time working at an international school, I have found that sharing books where the characters are having the same experiences as the child can really help put them at ease and boost their confidence.Here are my favourite books for children experiencing big changes:I Know Here by Laurel Croza (illustrated by Matt James) is a lovely story about an eight-year-old girl about to leave her current home and move far away. In order to comfort the young girl, her teacher encourages her to draw all the things that she wants to remember about her current life in Saskatchewan. That the story is being told from the perspective of a child really helps it resonate with younger readers.The sequel to I Know Here is, From There To Here and is a lovely follow up to the initial book as the little girl shares what her life is like in her new home and the new friends she has made. Being able to read how the character found happiness in her new home is very uplifting and will provide comfort to any child unsure about what to expect from a new place.Working in an international school, I know how important it is for children to feel represented and this book does a great job of this. Moving Day! is written and illustrated by Jess Stockham and shares a story about an African American boy whose involvement with his house move helps him accept the transition. Involvement in real tasks is a natural progression from pretend play and a crucial stage in a child’s development.Grandma’s advice is always the best. For Molly Lou Melon in Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell (illustrated by David Catrow), a confident and brave young girl is faced with some testing moments when she moves to a new place. I enjoyed reading a book that sent a positive message about believing in yourself and being courageous. Grandma’s sage advice included:Walk as proudly as you can, and the world will look up to you.
Smile big, and the world will smile right alongside you.
Sing out clear and strong, and the world will cry tears of joy.
Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you too.A great set of rules to live by for us all!New York Times a bestseller, A Good-Pie Party by Liz Garton Scanlon (and illustrated by Kady MacDonald), tells the story of how three best friends, Posy, Megan, and Mae, decide to throw a good-pie party instead of a good-bye party for Posy who is about to move house. With the help of a tasty pie, the a potentially sad separation is turned into a heart-warming celebration of friendship and happy memories.A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle (author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar) is written with four to eight-year olds in mind and presents change as exciting part of life rather than something to be scared of. As the crab out-grows his shell, he has to go on the hunt for his next home and make new friends along the way – just the ticket for children unsure about moving to a new home, a new school, or maybe just going through a new experience and perhaps feeling a bit isolated.Of course, reading is just one way to help support children. Other suggestions include helping your child create a scrapbook of their memories. Each place we live and each friend we make is a part of us and compiling a collection of happy memories can help turn fear of the unknown into excitement for what lies ahead.Also make sure you take full advantage of the support systems available at your child’s new school. At ACS we are very experienced in easing all new students in and welcoming everyone into our school environment. Each of our three UK schools has a fully trained pastoral care team; counsellors; and a Welcome Team, a group of parents and staff, on hand to help new families adjust and settle in.To find out more about ACS International Schools, or to register for an open morning visit www.acs-schools.com/opendays.
International Guide 18/19 video
The Relocate Global's Guide to International Education & Schools 2018/19 is packed with expert tips and information for those relocating and the professionals supporting them. Learn more about the Guide
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