How Isabela coped with her friends’ move

This is the story of Isabela. Isabela is 9 years old. Isabela’s parents are expats but they have been living in The Netherlands for a long time and Isabela was born here. Isabela was enjoying school. She got good grades, got along well with the teachers and her peers, and she had two best friends to play with. Her best friends even lived close to her home so that Isabela could have playdates almost every other day. There was not much that her parents needed to worry about, except maybe the occasional sibling rivalry between her and her twin brother Lucas. The two could fight over every little thing, but they could also play well together during other moments. When Isabela did not have a play date she could often join Lucas to his, and when Lucas did not have play dates, he could often join Isabela.

Summer was approaching
Although Isabela’s life was stable and her parents decided to stay in the Netherlands at least until Isabela and Lucas had finished primary school, they were attending an international school, and so change was a constant factor in their lives. The school year was coming to an end and for Isabela, the worst thing she could imagine happened; both of her best friends were moving away.

Isabela’s parents guided Isabela well. They helped her prepare gifts for the departing friends and made sure those last moments of goodbye were special and worthy. They also agreed with the friends’ parents that Isabela could talk with her friends regularly on Skype.  Summer came and the family went on holiday and family visits. Isabela appeared to be doing well, she met her friends on Skype as agreed and was happy to have vacation the rest of the time.

A new school year
But as the new school year started, Isabela had to face the facts. When she came to school, her best friends were no longer there. Although she had always gotten along well with her peers, they were not her friends. Isabela tried to find support with her brother Lucas and his friends. Unfortunately, Lucas and his friends felt that they should no longer play with girls. Each time Isabel tried to join in with them, she faced rejection. Isabela felt very lonely. She often fought with her brother. The sibling rivalry was at an all-time high at home, but now at school too they were regularly found fighting. Isabela even had to be sent to the principal once because she could not contain her anger. In the mornings, Isabela started complaining she did not want to go to school.

Yet with a little help…
Isabela’s parents and teachers had heard about Social Skills 4 Kids and wondered if this program could help Isabela. She joined a group halfway through the school year. Isabela was a bit worried to join, she feared she would be singled out by going to such a group. Although the children in her group had joined for a variety of reasons, Isabela was relieved to find that they had one thing in common; they all were struggling with something and they all were very normal children. During the course, Isabela was challenged to show initiative to join in with other groups and she learned about things she could do when she was feeling very angry. A few weeks into the program, Isabela’s parents reported that she was no longer complaining in the mornings to go to school. Isabela learned to take a break when she noticed her anger was rising high and she learned about ‘helping thoughts’ which she could use during such moments. The fights with her brother diminished and after some weeks, Isabela even found that she was better off now that she could no longer join in with the boys, because she had made new (girl) friends of her own.


Social Skills 4 Kids


Social Skills 4 Kids is a 7 week group course for English speaking children between 7 and 12 years old. New groups are starting 2-3 times per school year at Expat Child Psychology.

Learn more about Social Skills 4 Kids!

* Expat Child Psychology respects the privacy of their clients. Isabela is a fictional character whose story is inspired by several children who followed the course.

Starting School in a New Language: Preparation

When a young child enters a school or school-like environment in a different language than the one(s) they speak at home with the family, the transition might be concerning for parents. Will my child be adjusting well? Will she be learning the language quickly? Will he be able to inform the teachers of his needs? Will the teachers be patient with her and support her emotional reaction to potential communication frustration? Some very valid questions to ask and there are things you can do to make this change easier for your child.  Today, I will share some tips for preparing your child for this new situation.

Preparation
As with all major changes, children can be (need to be) prepared in an age-appropriate manner. A good preparation helps both you and the child realize that this change will sometimes be exciting and fun but might also be challenging and scary at other times. You might even consider some strategies your child can apply when facing these challenges.

– Refer to similar situations. If the child has been in a school-like setting before, tell them it will be mostly the same but people speak a different tongue that they will need to learn. If you and your partner speak different languages at home, say ‘you know how mom and dad speak differently? At school they will speak differently from mom and dad but you will not be able to understand what they are saying at first, you will need to learn this’.

– Show confidence & optimism. Inside, you might be very scared and concerned for this transition. Your child will look at you to find some instruction as to how they should feel about this change. If you are scared, your child may take over this fear (after all, you are the one that knows what is coming). When talking with your child, express that you believe they will adjust and make a positive experience out of this. It may not always be easy, but you will come out on the other end of this.

– Visit the school. Before the actual start, visit the school as much as you can so that your child can become familiar with the environment. Most schools in the Netherlands will have some ‘wen-dagen’ (acclimatization days) to ease young children’s transition to the new school. Even if that is not the case, you can visit the school building and look at it from the outside, watch the playground, maybe get a tour inside and meet the teacher.

– Learn as much of the language as you can before the start of school. Maybe you can find a tutor for a few weeks or months before the school starts to make your child more familiar with the language. You can also help your child become more familiar with the language by learning some basic words that he will surely need (food, drink, toilet, teacher, sick, counting 1 to 10, etc.), learn nursery rhymes in the new language or watch television in that language.

– Discuss with your child how to communicate with the teacher, in case they cannot follow the instructions or find it hard to express themselves. Share these strategies with the teachers too so that they can respond appropriately when your child communicates their discomfort.

There are many things you can do to prepare your young child before starting school in a new language, but the most important thing to remember is that prevention is better than cure, and with a good preparation you may be able to prevent a great deal of communication frustration for your child in the classroom.

Next to post on this blog: how to support your child once they entered school in the new language.

How Jake made the Netherlands his new home

This is the story of Jake. Jake is a self-aware 10 year old boy. Jake used to live in the USA, but a few months ago his parents decided to move to the Netherlands, to a curious place called The Hague. Jake was looking forwards to the move, he saw the move as an exciting chance to make new friends and experience a new environment. And his old friends? Well, with the internet, skype and online games they would only really be a click away, wouldn’t they?

Then reality kicks in

A few weeks after landing in the Netherlands, Jake finds himself home alone on a Wednesday afternoon. Disappointed. Making friends had not been so easy. In fact, Jake is very shy and has no clue how to approach the other children in his class. He only talks to them when the teacher says they have to work together, and even then, Jake and the other kid would only talk about the project shortly, agreeing upon the basics before they split to work on their own parts. Making friends in the USA had been easy, he had been in de same class since he started school, with the same peers who at some point had automatically become his friends. But not this time. This time it would take more. And his old friends? Staying in touch was not so easy after all, what with the time difference. Only for half an hour a day was it possible to talk to them, when they came home from school and right before he was supposed to go to sleep. And they already started to move on with their lives, they did not come online everyday anymore right after school to talk with Jake.

As a result of his disappointment Jake started to hate the Netherlands, to hate his parents for bringing him here and hate himself for being so shy and unable to make friends and to adapt to this new place. At home, Jake would often feel tired and fight with his parents while his grades in school were far below the average of his grades in the USA. Luckily, by this time his parents realized Jake was not coping with the changes very well and signed him up for Social Skills 4 Kids.

Yet with a little help…

At Social Skills 4 Kids, Jake learned how to approach other children. He learned how to ask others about their personal lives and this in turn led others to show more interest in Jake too. He learned how to cope with the changes and with rejection. Before the end of the course, Jake had become more confident and had made several friends in the Netherlands. The fights at home diminished and Jake was more able to appreciate the Dutch language and culture.


Social Skills 4 Kids


Social Skills 4 Kids is a 7 week group course for English speaking children between 7 and 12 years old. New groups are starting 2-3 times per school year at Expat Child Psychology.

Learn more about Social Skills 4 Kids!

* Expat Child Psychology respects the privacy of their clients. Jake is a fictional character whose story is inspired by several children who followed the course.