Aug 15 2008


Posted at 2:51 pm under Uncategorized

As the new school year starts, ISB welcomes about 360 new students who are joining us from other schools in Bangkok, Asia, and from around the world. There are also 34 new teachers joining the ISB faculty!

Transitions and being new are a part of life, and particuarly so in international schools. Changing jobs, moving up from preschool to “big school”, elementary to middle or middle to high school, moving across town or moving to a new country present both opportunities and challenges.

At the Elementary School New Parent Orientation on Thursday, the Elementary counselors, Doug Williamson and Sarah Maurer, spoke about what to expect from transitions, and what school and parents can do to make them as smooth as possible*.

Saying Goodbye

Part of what makes transitions difficult is giving up our “comfort zone”. Before we transition we belong somewhere. We have friends. People know us and they know about us; we have a reputation. We know what to expect in our day to day lives, and tend to focus on the present and day to day details.

We start the process of leaving when we get the news of an impending move, not when we get on the plane. Saying goodbye is difficult, and farewells may be put off until the last possible minute or avoided altogether. Friends may start to become more distant long before the time to leave arrives. Kids (and adults) may fight with dear, longstanding friends because it is easier to say goodbye when you don’t really like someone anymore.  The process of coming to terms can take about six months to work through, but many families have far less time to prepare themselves.

Making the Move

The actual moving and settling in process is a time of fear, anxiety and uncertainty which may last up to six months. Things are chaotic and unpredictable. Nobody knows us, and we are uncertain about how things work in our new surroundings. Now, instead of focusing on day to day details such as who to invite to lunch, there are more pressing concerns such as where to catch the bus and what to do if you miss it. Kids (and adults) tend to experience high highs and low lows, and may exhibit uncharacteristic or exaggerated behavior problems.

Settling In

After a time, there is a tentative acceptance of the new surroundings. The person may feel comfortable enough to take some small risks. New relationships must be formed. Some people may struggle with the loss of their identity and reputation, which may affect their self-esteem. A student who was the star of the hockey team at her previous school may be devastated not to make the team, or hear that there is no team at her new school. This period of adjustment may take as long as a year.

Many families overseas find that they choose to move or receive news of their next posting before they ever get to the point where their new home becomes their real home. Most children living abroad are at one of the phases of transition described above.

Problems Adjusting

Adjusting to transition is difficult, but can be worse for those who choose not to adapt or who generally struggle to adjust to change. Not know about the new culture and know how to access the appropriate information doesn’t help. Some kids are afraid that allowing themselves to get involved with a new place and new people will mean that they are being disloyal to the people they have left behind. Lastly, a difficult exit from the previous place makes entering a new place much more difficult.

Expect a bumpy road, but if you have concerns about your child’s adjustment, don’t hesitate to consult with his/her counselor or one of the school psychologists.

Transition Dos and Don’ts

·         Encourage your child(ren) participate in the new student activities and supports offered at school, e.g. New Student Group (ES), New Student Getaway (MS), orientations and peer-helper/buddy programs.

·         Allow your children to unpack their rooms when the shipment arrives.

·         Encourage friendships from classmates and recess. Arrange play dates for younger children.

·         Encourage open communication and answer questions honestly

·         Listen, be there and share feelings

·         Monitor your own emotional reactions. Transitions are difficult for parents too, and you need to   find time to take care of yourself so that you can be there to support your children.

·         Make the most of new friends and other parents

·         Get involved at your own pace

·         Explore and enjoy  your new home!


Thanks to Doug and Sarah for sharing this!


*Doug and Sarah’s presentation is based on Pollock’s Transition Model (Pollock, D.C. (1990) The Transition Model.  Albany, New York: Interaction Inc).

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