The challenges involved in relocating younger children

A family relocation involving young children affords a wealth of opportunities if managed well by parents and schools. ACS International Schools provides some helpful advice on managing the transition.

The challenges involved in relocating younger children
Children who are integrated into new cultures and societies at an early age have experiences that will have an enduring, positive impact on them for the rest of their lives. These children are immersed in enriching cultural experiences and become more tolerant of people who are different to themselves. Friendships develop that transcend racial and national barriers.As with any major change, however, younger children do face challenges when relocating, which parents and schools play an important role in helping to overcome.

How support from parents can aid the relocation process

Most children thrive on having regular routines, so when everything in a child’s world is changing, the one thing that should remain the same is the relationship between child and parent.During a move there can be a lot of uncertainty, with home, school and friends all changing. This can make some younger children feel helpless. Parents can help their child prepare for change by making them feel involved during the transition. This could mean finding creative ways to make a child feel included on family decisions by giving them an important responsibility or job, for example, packing favourite books and toys, or choosing items for their new bedroom.Including children in some parts of the process will allow them to feel a sense of ownership instead of feeling helpless.

The role of school support in helping children to adjust

Schools play a significant role in helping children adjust to their new environment. International Schools, such as ACS, were set up specifically to help families whose lives change often as they move countries for work, and are therefore well prepared for supporting families in transition.All ACS International School campuses, based in the UK and Qatar, have school counsellors for students. A large part of this role, especially for those in younger grades, is to focus on assisting students who have relocated. Working with the teacher, counsellors create activities to help integrate new students into their classroom communities from the moment they arrive at the school.A child’s friendship with his or her peers is one of the most significant factors that can help to ensure a smooth transition. Counsellors at ACS match new students with buddies from their homeroom and they immediately find comfort in their first new friends. Student ambassadors, buddies and peer mentors make sure that everyone has a friend to sit with at lunch and someone to play with at break time.Counsellors also organise regular lunch groups with themselves and other students during the first few weeks, giving an opportunity for new students to voice any concerns they may have in a friendly and open environment.

International schools: a nurturing environment

As well as emotionally supporting younger students through transition, ACS ensures this understanding and caring environment continues into the academic side of the classroom.A recent survey of school leaders has revealed that eight out of ten have seen an increase in mental health issues among primary school children during exam season. In addition, school leaders reported an increase in fear of academic failure (76 per cent) and depression (55 per cent) among their pupils in the period since 2014.It seems today’s highly pressurised system of testing is causing children as young as six to suffer stress and worry at a time when they’re supposed to be learning to love school and grow in confidence, rather than fearing failure.There are alternatives to the system and this is what is on offer at ACS. Student progress is monitored but the damaging pressure of exams is off. Without SATs and other standardised tests being forced in primary schools, students, parents and teachers can escape the exam rat run, the league tables and the competitive nature of the classroom.
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At ACS Cobham, for example, educators use MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing in lower school years to monitor student progress. These ‘smart’ tests are taken by students on a computer each year.  As students move through the test, the computer programme will ask and adjust questions based on the individual’s ability, so they are different for each child. Using MAP testing you can see the growth in each student as they move through each year group, without the pressure of revision or rigorous exams. Students are not just measured on their academic progress but also against ACS’s learning outcomes – developing students as confident individuals, effective learners and caring contributors. 

The benefits of relocating

Allowing for an environment where young students are cared for during and after transition, attempting to reduce any worries or stresses they may have, can only benefit a child’s well-being and promote positive personal development.The advantages of moving and living overseas at a young age far outweighs the challenges outlined, if that central component of their young lives – school – is a happy one. The experiences and opportunities students gain from integrating into new cultures early in their lives will positively impact them forever.Find out more about ACS 
ACS is a group of four schools, three close to London and one in Doha, Qatar
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