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Will my child find adjusting to an international school difficult?

Moving to a new country is stressful for everyone concerned, but this is made worse if you are a child changing school and leaving your friends behind. Of course, children of different ages will react differently, and everyone regardless of their age will have some concerns, fears and reservations. It is perfectly natural; indeed, we would be shocked if your son or daughter didn’t experience these emotions. However, you will be relieved to know that most people find the whole experience incredibly rewarding, and it will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

When any new student comes to our international school in Hong Kong, we always take the time the time to understand them as an individual. We try to find out about their interests, how they are finding Hong Kong and where they came from previously. It helps us to gain some understanding of their needs and the challenges that they may experiences in their first few days or months at a new school. Of course, we do all we can to help, but we like to stress to parents how important their support is for their child at this time.

Here are some of the things that we advise parents to do prior to their child joining us at Harrow and in the first few weeks. Naturally, the same ideas will apply whatever international school your child goes to.

1. Selecting the school

Although it is not always possible, we would recommend that you allow your child to have some input into which school they will be attending. If possible, visit the school before making your final decision as this will enable you to gain a better impression of what school life will be like. Try to meet the teachers, other students and look at the facilities. If your child is keen on sports, show them the fantastic sporting facilities that are available and the same goes for other interests. Children are less resistant to things that they have chosen, so keep this in mind.

2. Focus on the positives

Depending on how old your child is will affect how you approach this. Younger children are likely to be very nervous about the prospects of attending a new school, especially if it is in a new country. In the case, focus on how exciting it will be and try to explain that it is an adventure and one which they should relish. Older children are likely to be cynical and more withdrawn about the move so again explain the opportunities it will give them such as sports, music or arts. Concentrate on what they enjoy and where possible, try to ignore the negatives unless their concerns are founded.

3. Set realistic targets for your son/daughter and yourself

It is natural that your child will want to make an abundance of new friends in the first few days, but sadly, this is unlikely to happen. Indeed, it may take them a few days or weeks to make new friends but always ask questions about other people in their class and try to remember names. You must show patience at this time as most children can detect anxiety. When it comes to school work, if they are underperforming, accept that there are extenuating circumstances and don’t be too harsh.

4. Encourage them to invite their new friends round

When younger children are making new friends, it is a good idea for you to encourage your child to invite their new friends around. It will help them to relax together out of the school environment whilst also allowing you to learn more about their new friend. With older children, this may be less appropriate, so encourage them to meet their friends in other out of school settings such as at the shopping mall or in a coffee shop.

5. Try to encourage them to take part in extracurricular activities

Most international schools in Hong Kong offer a range of extracurricular activities, so there will almost certainly be something that your child will enjoy. Not only will they enjoy the activity, but it will be an excellent opportunity to meet some likeminded people. If your child is finding adjusting to their new environment hard, then this is a superb way of helping them settle in a more relaxed and less pressurised way.

6. Talk to your child about school

Some children are more comfortable than others about talking about their school day. If your son or daughter is quite open to chatting about their day, this will be natural. However, if they are more reserved, you should encourage them to talk but only at the right time. Try to pick a moment when they are relaxed and not preoccupied with something else. It will give you a good indication of how things are going even if their words may not accurately convey their feelings.

7. Don’t focus on grades initially

As we touched upon, it is quite common for a student’s grades to fall initially. They will be in a completely different environment, away from their friends, and the teaching methods may be different from what they are used. Try not to focus too heavily on this at first, but if the trend does continue, we would recommend that you speak to the teacher to establish if there are any reasons behind the drop.

8. Prepare as best you can

It may sound obvious, but sometimes as parents, we tend to miss the point! Try to make sure that your child is as well prepared as possible and have similar clothes, bags and equipment to the other pupils. Children are extremely sensitive to these issues, so it is vital that they feel they fit in from the beginning. Try to avoid anything that will draw unwanted attention or make them feel like they don’t belong.


Most children find adjusting to any new school quite difficult at first. However, we do all that we can to overcome this and are more familiar with the situation than most schools. If you would like more information, please contact us today.