Preparing your child for a new school

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Starting school can be a stressful event in your child’s life. More so for a child starting at a new school, in a new country.  Not only will he/she be dealing with a new environment, but with a new language, way of instruction, a new culture altogether. Separation anxiety (especially for children starting pre-school or kindergarten), could be a big problem. To help ease the situation for you and your kids, here are some suggestions for you:

Do some research

Before the school year starts, give yourself enough time to learn all you can about the school. Don’t be afraid to visit and talk to administrators, guidance counselors, and teachers. They will be expecting this. They will understand your situation and may even appreciate your full involvement in your child’s welfare. Ask about programs for newcomers, such as tours, orientations or even assigning a “buddy” to new students. A school tour will especially be helpful in making them feel more comfortable with the new environment.  Accompany your child on the tour and point out the classrooms, playground, bathrooms, the cafeteria, and auditorium so they won’t be lost on the first day. You should also learn about special programs they have related to sports or the arts that your child may be interested in.  This will help your child look forward to going to school instead of being anxious.

Watch this video from Parents Magazine for tips in helping your child face their first day of school fears:

Older children, such as your teenager, may have different concerns.  They could be anxious about speaking in English, fitting in, or coping with school work. The following video entitled “New Moves: An Orientation Video for Newcomer Students” may be helpful for them.  In the video, newcomer youth talk about their experiences adjusting to their new school and the ways that helped them succeed later on:

This video is also available in various languages at the Settlement.Org site.  It was produced by Frameline Productions for the Settlement Workers in School Program (SWIS) in Ontario.

Communicate

You, yourself are going through the same adjustment as your kids  Sharing how you feel and what you do to cope, will help them feel that they are not alone, and that there are solutions to hard situations. Always check up on them, especially when they are withdrawn or sensitive. Make sure that they know that they can always talk to you about anything. Be a good example and always communicate positivity. Tell them that adjusting is always a part of new adventures.  They will soon be involved in exciting activities, have new friends, learn new things, and will soon forget their fears and anxieties.

Get involved

Volunteering at your child’s school will give you the opportunity to meet their teachers, classmates, and other parents. This will also help improve your skills in conversing in English. Networking with other parents is a great way to get tips on dealing with common problems, and meeting other kids your child can socialize with.  More importantly, this will show your kids that getting involved is a good thing and may encourage them to try being more outgoing through your good example.

Just remember to always be supportive of your children.  Be patient with their complaints. Don’t scold them for complaining, or worse, ignore them.  Remind yourself that this phase is just temporary. Soon, you will hear those complaints change into excited chatter as your children become more adjusted to their school life.

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Community Resources

Mosaic Newcomer Family Resource Network has many parenting and family programs, as well as English classes, with quality child care for newcomer parents.

Nobody’s Perfect Manitoba is a parenting program for newcomer parents with children aged 0-5 years. Here you will learn about child development, safety, health, and behavior from a trained facilitator.

My Child in the Middle Years is a great website for parents of 10-14 year old children. Here, you will find useful information on the changes that your child is going through at this age, as well as suggestions and resources on how to help your child succeed.

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Preparing your child for a new school

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