Building resilience in children: the benefits of relocating

Transitions are a fact of life at international schools. Whilst challenging, these transitions can be positive and help children learn skills that are highly useful in other situations throughout their lives as the team at Inter-Community School Zurich (ICS) explain.

Building resilience in children: the benefits of relocating

Inter-Community School Zurich (ICS)

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 Children accompanying their families on an international relocation have to contend with a sea of change: from friendships and accommodation to language and culture. Parents are often understandably concerned about how their children will adapt and cope.International Schools are well placed to help with the transition as they have a wealth of experience in dealing with globally mobile families. Change breeds resilience, a quality that goes beyond simply thriving in a new school. Resilience allows students to easily adapt to numerous types of change throughout their lives.ICS, a co-educational day school in Switzerland for children aged from 3 to 18, offers numerous support programmes. These are guided by a framework which embraces three strategies in order to help students develop an awareness of stressful situations and broaden their coping mechanisms.

1) Positive psychology

A positive psychology involves focusing on positive traits. Often children focus on what they cannot do, and this causes a downward negative spiral in confidence and performance.One way of generating a positive psychology is writing or speaking statements that focus on the child’s strengths. These statements should be more than simply broad statements such as, “I am good at maths.” Instead, they should help the child focus on very specific positive traits like “I can be calm”; “I am respectful”; “I care about others”; and, “I am a good friend.”School search and education advice - connect with our in-country experts

2) A growth mindset

Some students rebound quickly from failed attempts, but others experience immense trauma at even minor setbacks. Stanford University psychologist, Dr Carol Dweck coined the phrases “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset” and uses them to describe how individuals view their intelligence and talents.People with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence and talent potential is limited to what they were born with. It often results in a crippling fear of failure. They become more concerned with their image in other people’s eyes than in their own actual skills and will pick unchallenging tasks so that they can always be seen as succeeding.People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence and talent can always be developed in any area, no matter the strength or weakness of a person’s current ability. These people are more likely to choose challenging tasks, take creative risks, and focus on a journey of continual improvement.Importantly, it is possible to change from having a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Some tricks involve valuing effort over talent, trying different ways of learning, learning from criticism, and taking risks in front of others.

3) Mindfulness

Mindfulness teaches students how to be calm, clear and focused in the face of stress or worry. Mindfulness helps children strengthen their attention and concentration and recover more quickly from disappointment and irritability.With mindfulness training children can learn to overcome the natural fight or flight reaction to fear, anger and sadness and regain control. The brain is constantly reshaped by experiences and thoughts. If students are caught up in worry, it becomes a repeating pattern but when they focus on being calm, clear and focused, they learn how to respond effectively to negative emotions in the future.Mindfulness is taught explicitly in Grades 5 and 9 at ICS, and is woven into classrooms throughout the school.

Building resilience

All three of these strategies not only help students with transitions between schools or between grades; they also help build resilience. This resilience is a core character trait that will stay with children long after their school days and help them to deal effectively with the challenges that they will face in future life.For more information on Inter-Community School Zurich, visit
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