Helping your child through transitions
First of all, Happy New Year and a big welcome to the new families that have joined the BIS Abu Dhabi Community. Transitions are often a common theme for students in the UAE and whilst moving to another country and a new school can be exciting, it can also be very daunting and overwhelming. Regardless of whether this is your family’s first international move or your child/ren are fully fledged third culture kids, transitions bring uncertainty and a whole heap of emotions.
We actually go through stages when faced with a transition and the stages may look like:
Involvement - The first stage involves feeling settled and comfortable in a place that we know; we feel like we belong and know where we fit in.
Leaving - The second stage is marked by the realisation that we will be leaving our place of comfort. As we realise this, we may begin leaning away from our responsibilities, commitments and relationships. There are often mixed emotions during this stage. For example, we may feel both anxious about leaving and excited about moving to a new place.
Transition - This stage begins when we actually leave our place of comfort and ends when we make the conscious decision to settle into the new place. During this stage we may be confronted with chaos and stress.
Entering - This stage begins when we feel ready to become part of life in the new place. We begin to figure out how we should go about becoming accepted, start to reach out to others and take some risks.
Re-involvement - Finally, we reach the stage where we feel accepted in the new place. We begin to have the feeling that our presence matters and that we belong.
Now that you are aware of the stages, how can you support your child through a transition?
Educate yourself about transitions and acknowledge and mourn any losses – whilst some children adjust quickly into their new environment, other children struggle and may experience a sense of grief and loss. We often forget to pay attention to what we have lost in a transition and overlooking your child’s feelings may pose a problem if left unresolved.
Maintain or create a family ritual - It is so important to maintain some sort of stability. For example, keeping certain traditions or rituals that your family does, no matter where you are or encouraging your child to bring his/her favourite possessions from place to place may help protect from the instability often associated with a transition.
Be supportive - School can be hard at any age and any level. Children need support not only at school but at home as well. Try and empathise with your child. Really put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they are feeling. Maybe they are anxious about starting school or maybe they started and have uncertainty about how the school year will go. Being their support at home will help transition them into school and get their brains more focused on learning. Another part of supporting your child is being their advocate. Your child may be finding it difficult to express themselves, especially if that means they have to ask their teacher something important. Advocate for them and make sure they are getting the support they need at school as well. Teachers will welcome any parental involvement and they want to be a team when it comes to educating your child.
Maintain contact with the old community, family and friends - If your child wants to keep his/her old friendships intact, help him/her do so. Host a farewell party with friends and take photographs as keepsakes. Encourage your child to write letters, emails, and make phone calls. If possible, invite old friends to spend weekends and vacations with you. Let your child know that even though you have moved, you do not have to break the ties that have been so important.
If you believe your child is finding it difficult to adjust during or after a transition, please contact the School Counsellors, Ms Gita Bhatt and Mr Jihad Omar, to see how best to support your child.
School Counselling Team