I’ve written before how families relocating to London, UK can help prepare their children for the move – see my previous “Weekend Warrior Saturday: What You Can do Today to Prep for Your London Move” (posted 8 January 2011). That particular post related a lot to how you can help them adjust to the idea of relocating and involve them in the process of moving house—i.e., packing up the old to move into the new—and today I’d like to add to that, particularly with regard to helping them adjust to a new school.
Moving into a new house in a new community can be stressful for a child. People tend to easily dismiss these young folks as even more adaptable than adults, which is true to an extent, but it’s not to say a London relocation may not take a toll on them; they’re not bouncy balls made of rubber, after all. It can be particularly harder if they’re school age and very cognizant of the friends and school culture they’re leaving behind. Transitioning to a new school can be overwhelming—the culture of the faculty, student body, and community is crucial to understand, as are curriculum and administrative procedures. It’s not so easy to just transplant oneself into a different school, especially for a relocation to London considering the UK options I’ve mentioned earlier this week (UK school vs. American school vs. international school). Even schools within the same national curriculum can vary in their approach, so continuity in education becomes the critical factor at hand.
So. What you should do…
Plan early. I know, you’re thinking, “Duh…” But seriously. Plan early. Think very specifically (at a very early point in your relocation process) about what qualifications your child needs to obtain through their schooling so this education can transfer seamlessly into their next step. If you’re moving to London from the US, will you be returning to the States, staying in the UK for the long-haul, or possibly moving to another country? What objectives will your child need to meet in order to transition into that next educational system? As I mentioned yesterday, if it’s possible you’ll be relocating globally for a while, an international school will provide the International Baccalaureate Diploma curriculum honored by many universities worldwide. If you’re returning to the States, an American school will ensure continuity with US goals and objectives, not to mention prep for US standardized exams. Or maybe you want your child to attend a state or independent UK school for the sake of broadening their perspectives within the local community and the national curriculum—bearing in mind the system itself might not provide supports with respect to bridging curricular gaps between home and host nations.
And by allowing yourself enough time to research the schools themselves (the Good Schools Guide is a resource), you can identify which has an administration and faculty that will attend to your child’s specific needs. Contact these schools and ask them specifically what services they can provide your child to help ease any potential relocation anxiety and offer them proper continuity in (if not enhancement of) their education. What is the community like? How strong is parent involvement? What clubs and other organizations are available to students/families? Is there a welcome committee that can be an early point of contact to help you and your child settle in? And do they offer an orientation? Can you take your child to explore the school campus in advance so their classrooms, teachers, and potential friends can become a more known quantity? I highly recommend this last idea—the best way to reduce anyone’s anxiety—child and adult alike—is to preview what’s coming ahead. The unknown can be far scarier than the known, and if children can visualize themselves in their new environment in advance of an international relocation, they will adjust to it more smoothly.
Now comes the hard part: researching the answers to all these questions. Not an easy nor fast task, which is why I said before, “Plan early.” London relocation agents like London Relocation Ltd. can be a helpful part of this process, too, in answering questions about schools and neighborhoods and, even better, saving you time on your London apartment search so you can spend it on your London school search.