The back-to-school transition can often be rather difficult for kids after a jam-packed summer. Additional challenges arise if your child is starting a new school year abroad.
For this reason, we’ve suggested some steps you can take to help your children stay healthy and settle back into the school routine.
Health checks & vaccinations
Depending on the country, a variety of up-to-date immunizations are required. A common vaccination is the influenza (flu) vaccine, required yearly for infants and also for university students as flu outbreaks in halls/dorms are a regular occurrence.
There are also vaccines for meningitis, pneumonia (asthmatics and diabetics), as well as the HPV and MMR vaccines. Younger children (any younger than 18) often need health checks before starting school, with some countries demanding proof of vaccinations as well as eye examinations and dental screening.
A sports physical may also be necessary, and is helpful in tracking progress and potential health concerns. It is important to note that while some parents may oppose vaccinations, whether for personal or religious reasons, immunisation is the most effective way to protect children from preventable diseases. Even if the relevant disease is not apparent in that country, it may well be brought over from abroad.
Getting the necessary equipment for the academic year can be quite a task and can burn a hole in your pocket, particularly if you have several children. Nevertheless, it is better to be prepared and creating an activity out of it can make it fun for the kids and boost their morale before school even starts. Take your children on an ‘outing’ to get school supplies and accessories (perhaps matched to their favourite cartoon characters for example) as well as school uniform, if necessary.
If your child is indeed starting a new school, contact the school in advance and arrange a ‘trial day’ or a visit, suggesting that he/she be paired with another student to show them around and look after them for the day.
Everyone’s nervous upon returning to school and your children should be reassured that there’s nothing to worry about. They need to know that being at school will quickly become an ingrained part of their life, but that if there is any trouble, you will be there for them. Parental support is an essential part the integration process.
It goes without saying that the prospect of making new friends, particularly in a different country with different a different language and cultural values, can be daunting for the majority of children.
For the little ones, you should do what you can to find families in the neighbourhood with kids of a similar age, and encourage them to play together. Most parents realise that in the case of older children, particularly teenagers, interference or mere involvement in their social lives can be rejected. However, if your teen is feeling lonely or seems to be struggling to fit in and find friends, it wouldn’t hurt to offer suggestions such as joining after-school clubs or social media groups which correspond to their interests or hobbies.
There’s no denying that finding friends in a new country relieves a great deal of the stress associated with the big move.
It is important to encourage your children to adopt a healthy regime to promote good sanitation and a strong diet. This is especially important in very young children and in countries where hygiene is a bit of an issue.
Firstly, parents should make a habit of encouraging their kids to wash their hands regularly, especially after using the lavatory. Provide anti-bacterial gel or hand sanitizer for when soap and water aren’t available. You should also emphasise the need to cover coughs and sneezes, and tell them to dispose of dirty tissues.
Secondly, if your child has a high temperature, it is highly recommended that you keep them at home to prevent spreading the illness and speed up recovery.
Thirdly, remember all children pick up viruses and colds from school, it helps strengthen their immune system. If you are relocating abroad the bacteria and germs will likely be alien to your kid’s immune system, so it may seem as if they are getting sicker more often than before. This is normal and will lessen over time as their body adapts to the new environment.
“This is a very touchy-feely demographic, and that’s how we share germs…And the little ones don’t have the same exposure to germs that we do, so until their immune systems get built up, they get sick,” Dr. Harley Rotbart, author of the book “Germ Proof Your Kids”, explained to CNN.