Moving to a new country is hard, and not just logistically. The emotional upheaval and uncertainties can be unsettling to even the most veteran expat. To children however? What may be merely unsettling to adults can be extremely distressing to children – with little being as upsetting as the often tricky issue of going to a new school.

Luckily, the international schools in Singapore are well-versed when it comes to settling in. Because unlike schools in your home country, the international schools in “expat-dense” countries experience a lot of student transience; a high level of turnover of people in all areas is one of the drawbacks of expat life. There is an upside to this, however; as a result of the expat “revolving door”, international schools all have well-tried systems and policies for dealing with the flux of newcomers every term.

So, if that newcomer is you – or more accurately, your child – then take comfort: while you may be feeling quite headless-chicken about the whole international move and upheaval, the school you have chosen will be taking it – and any anxiety your child may be feeling – entirely in its stride.

It can help, however, to take some additional “Settling In Steps” yourself. Having some strategies in place will help your child greatly in making the transition from New Kid to Cool Kid!

Here are top tips:

    • If you haven’t done it already, contact your child’s new school and ask what systems they have in place for new students. Do they have a buddy system? Can your child pop into meet their classmates before they officially start? Can the teacher connect you with the class parent, so you can introduce yourself and find out a bit about the class / teacher / school?


    • The absolute best way for your child to settle is to make a friend or two. If that friend is in the new school – or even better, the new class – then all the better! But even if not, making a new friend will (a) reinforce their confidence in their ability to make friends in an unfamiliar place, and (b) take their mind off the impending First Day At School anxieties. So, get yourself and your child down to your hotel’s / serviced apartment’s / condo’s pool or playground, and get chatting to the other parents.


    • If the school is able to connect you to classmates, then reach out to them for playdates or get-togethers. Even if the children don’t immediately bond, your child will have a familiar face on their first day of school.


    • If the school can’t connect you (some schools have more rigid rules regarding contact sharing than others) then don’t be shy about doing some online social media shout-outs! Facebook in particular is a great starting point as there are a variety of Singapore Expat groups to join. It’s entirely acceptable to ask total strangers for help – or, more specifically, for a play date: a simple “Does anyone have an ‘X’ grade child in ‘Y’ International School who might be free for a play date?” is all you need. Singapore’s Expat community is incredibly generous towards “newbies” – they have all been there before, and more importantly, most have had children in the same, unfamiliar, boat.


    • It can be tempting to indulge your child’s desire to constantly Skype and FaceTime with their best friends from back home – after all, they need a connection with someone. However, too much contact is not always a good thing. As well as reminding them of what they no longer have, and supporting their own perception that they now have NO friends, increasingly they’ll hear about activities and fun times their friends are having without them, which can be just as devastating. So, as much as you can, limit their calls and talk to your child about all the fun things they have done in Singapore which they can tell their old friends about.


    • Get out and explore Singapore! It’s a fabulous city with so much to do, and is incredibly family-oriented. The Zoo, Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios… there are numerous fun choices no matter what your child’s age or preference. As well as giving your child plenty of things to excitedly tell their friends at home about (see our previous tip), getting out and about will confirm your assertions about what a great place Singapore is; take their minds off their concerns, and simply give you some important bonding time.


    • One of the great things about Singapore’s International schools is the fabulous transport services they offer: safe and reliable buses to and from your home every day is a godsend for many parents! If you are planning on making the most of this service, take a moment and assess whether starting this from Day 1 is the right fit for your child. It might be that a new country, a new classroom and a new timetable is enough change for one week. Many parents we have spoken with opted to accompany their children to / from school for the first few days at least, on the basis that starting and finishing the school day with a familiar face – and a hand to hold – took the edge off their insecurities.


    • If after a few weeks your child hasn’t appeared to settle, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most international schools have experienced, trained counsellors, who are particularly skilled in this area. Your child’s teacher will also be a helpful resource, as well as other parents.

Finally, while friends, classmates and teachers are all important to helping your child settle in, nobody is as vital as YOU. When your child tells you of their anxieties, acknowledge and accept them – try not to simply reassure them. Tell them you understand their concerns; you’re always there for them and then tell them what your plans are. Be open and communicate. Involve them in your great Singaporean adventure, and before you know it, they’ll be as excited to be living here as all the many thousands of expat children who live and thrive here already!