Adjusting to a new school and a new country: How can you help your child?
Delhi is a big and chaotic city. Its traffic does not run smoothly and finding what you want and need can be time-consuming and bewildering. Previous patterns of life may not be possible anymore. How can we help our children cope with a new life here?
Finding places in Delhi that are somewhat familiar is a good start. Big malls with their cool, clean sophistication can get us out of the cloying crowd for a while and are an obvious first stop. Finding a school that has other students who have had or are going through similar lifestyle-changes, and where there may even be people from our home country, is possibly the best thing we can do to help our children integrate into their new life.
But what else can we do? What did your family use to enjoy doing? Our family used to play squash, go camping at the beach and go on long bush walks. Well, one of those is possible in Delhi! It took us a while to find those sports centres with a wide range of activities available - but they have provided us with great family time since we discovered them. We have also spent a lot of time visiting some of Delhi's many archaeological sites. These have not enthralled every member of the family, but they have nevertheless been good family time, and have helped us to recognize that Delhi is far more than just busy traffic, small shops, and narrow streets. We have also begun building up our collection of board games again – providing another familiar connection with our pre-Indian life.
It is important to find as much as you can in Delhi that connects you to other family members and to your past life.
Choosing a new school should be done with care. Some children find adjusting to a new school easy, but for those that don't, finding students at the school who are friendly and sympathetic is a big help! How can you help your child if they are struggling with the challenge of integrating into (yet another) school?
1. Don’t assume they will settle in at once. Be grateful and happy if they do, but in many cases, it may take weeks, or even months, for a child to begin to feel relaxed in their new environment. If you are concerned, it's fine to go to the school and talk candidly with your child’s teachers, to check on how they themselves think your child is doing. They will have seen many students making this transition, and will have a realistic perspective on how your child is fitting in. From their experience, they may be able to give you some useful advice that will help your child adjust.
2. Encourage your child to be friendly. However, good friendships usually take time to develop, so don’t be too alarmed if the process for your child seems a bit slow. Be ready to support any initiative on the part of others or on the part of your child to make friends. You may also be able to organize events and activities to invite your child’s classmates to (such as laser tag, going to a movie, games evenings, rock wall climbing) . . . depending on your child’s interests, of course!
3. Another way to help children adjust is to pay attention to what they have to say (if they are saying anything) and to respond sympathetically and supportively to the comments they are making, while also encouraging them to work through their difficulties and helping them to come up with strategies to deal with perceived problems. It is important to be ready to be part of the solution.
It is not wrong for ourselves or our children to mourn for a past we no longer have. However, we can begin to create a present that is itself full of positive events and happenings - to which new friends will be added - and eventually leading to a sense of being, if not at home, then at least at ease.
- Parent at MDIS