How to prepare and support your child when moving schools

How to prepare and support your child when moving schools

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For many new arrivals to Switzerland, having their child change schools or start international school will be a new, unfamiliar and possibly even worrying experience. However, as Sandrine Pureur from La Côte International School Aubonne (LCIS) explains, with careful preparation, you can help set your child up for success.

Transitioning to a new school: the slower, the better

From an early years practitioner’s viewpoint, you don’t get a second chance at making a transition succeed. You have to get it right at the beginning but also have to be aware that it might take time for your child to settle in, even if you do everything correctly. 

Some children need more sessions, some need just one, while in some cases, new kids can’t come for full days of school for a while. If children don’t feel safe and secure, they can’t learn, and so it's best if the first half-term when your child arrives is all about building relationships with other children and their families, helping the child to feel more secure in their new environment.

What parents can do to help their child adapt to a new school

To help your child prepare for their new environment, many schools offer orientation days for younger children to explore their new school and meet their new classmates and teachers. However, there is also a lot that parents can do to help reduce uncertainty:

  • Ask the school for a timetable you can keep at home and talk through your child’s new day. What sort of things will they do at school? How will they get to school and back? Who will pick them up? Try and be as visual as possible. Don’t forget to explain it all in a child-friendly way that they will understand.
  • Show your child pictures of their new teacher and what uniform they will wear.
  • Have a calendar with the days for your children to cross off, as a countdown to the beginning of a new school.
  • The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, is a great book to read to them during the first week of school.

Include children in the planning

It's very important to give your child an active role in the process. For example, they could choose their shoes, school bag or water bottle. Another idea is to have your children go to school with a picture of their family to put in a frame - perhaps your child could choose the photo. Maybe they could pick a soft toy that makes them feel good to bring in.

Knowing you’ll be there at the end of their first day is really important. Because they don’t understand the concept of time, just telling a child you’ll be picking them up won’t be enough. Talk through their timetable with them and show them when it is you’ll be collecting them.

It can take younger children a good half term to get used to that. We find that the second day is always the hardest because the first is a novelty and they often don’t realise that they will be returning the next day.

Share as much information with teachers as you can about your child

Communication between home and school is very important and it's crucial that both work in partnership during a child's first few days of term. If teachers can understand your child and what makes them tick, that helps them support them as they make the transition.

It’s about getting to know your child and them getting to know the teachers. If something has happened at home in the morning or the night before, let the teacher know so they can keep an eye on them. Be sure to be proactive and attend as many get-to-know sessions as possible. During these sessions, schools tend to gather much more information about your child.

Moving to a new school: No child's transition is perfect

Tears are to be expected. There may be a lot of tears for the first couple of days and many parents feel like it’s a failure on their part. We understand how difficult it can be leaving your child, but sometimes the longer a parent stays, the worse it can be. 

Children often settle quickly and we can send some pictures for the first few days. If a child is struggling, teachers know what to do as they have plenty of experience and tricks to help them settle. However, if a child really isn’t coping, support is always on hand to contact the parents.

Helping your child transition schools can be a challenge, but at La Côte International School, they do everything they can to make it a success. They pride themselves on a very personalised, individual approach to transitions for both child and parent. Want to find out more? Contact the school today!

Sandrine Pureur


Sandrine Pureur



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