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Supporting Your Child’s Mental Health in a Time of Change

KIS school kids

Summertime often brings change. It could be a change to a new grade, a new school, or even a new country. While this can be exciting in many ways, it can also bring about feelings of uncertainty and stress. Regardless of the age of your child or type of transition, there are some tried and true strategies to help you and your family flourish. 

Give Your Child a Role

It’s important that children are involved when it comes to picking a new school, neighborhood, or new home. No better way to do that than by giving them some ownership in it. Let them research schools in the area or give them creative license to decorate their new room. Perhaps they are tasked with finding the best theme parks or after-school activities in your new city.    

Enjoy your new_______. Fill in the blank—school/grade/friends/city/country

Each new circumstance brings new opportunities to discover. Find the exciting aspects of a new adventure and build on experiences around that. Find a new park or restaurant, enjoy the tourist attractions, the new food, and culture.  Plan a fun holiday in your new city or country. Plan a gathering of new friends. Sign your child up for an activity, like robotics or sport, to facilitate new friendships. Create those positive connections to your new life situation so your children can learn ways to appreciate it.

Here are some kid-friendly activities if you are new to Bangkok. Outside of Thailand? Check out this guide

Encourage Your Child to Express Their Emotions

Make sure your family can share their opinions throughout the entire journey. Do you have a choice in where you might move or what school the kids will go to?  Get them involved in the decision-making process.  Of course, you make the final decision but consider their voice.

Once the big transition has happened, make sure they know they can share the good, the bad, and everything in between.  Children will be more open to change if they feel their voice is valued and heard.  It’s easy for children to feel resentment if decisions are forced upon them.

Accept That is it Going to be Hard

Children may grieve changes, and that’s ok. Even welcomed changes can be difficult. Listen, acknowledge, and empathise. Don’t be too quick to distract, acknowledge emotions, or remind them of all the positives.

Listen

No matter how effective you are in preparing your child for the transition, there are bound to be occasional struggles. Should your children become sad, irritated, confused, or stressed, be an active listener and create a safe space for them to express their emotions.

Listen, but don’t ask too many questions. Even if a concern seems minor to you, be respectful and know that it can be a major crisis in the mind of a child. Ask open-ended questions like, “how’s it going?” or comments like, “you seem sad.” Then listen carefully and avoid giving advice unless your child asks for it. If they don’t open up easily, try to find quiet moments to read together or play a game. It’s a wonderful way to find out how they are feeling, even if they don’t open up about their day.

If after the adjustment time, your child is reluctant to go to school or seems truly unhappy, seek help. International schools are used to students coming and going and are there to support you. Signs of stress may include trouble sleeping (sleeping too much or too little), change in eating habits (overeating or not interested in eating), prolonged sadness or anxiety, or lost pleasure in things your child used to enjoy.

Regardless of the age or type of transition, your children look to you to chart the course with strength and confidence.  Be sure to lead with empathy, a growth mindset, and an open mind. 

About the Author

Beccy Fox is the Director For Teaching and Learning at KIS International School and a parent who moved to Bangkok in August 2021.  She was recently highlighted in our BKK Faces features.

To find out more about how KIS International School supports students’ mental health and social-emotional learning, take a look at a recent KIS parent webinar on wellbeing. Or better yet, please consider scheduling a time to visit the campus at https://kis.openapply.com/

KIS is the only school in Bangkok to offer all four IB Programmes. We believe quality learning takes place through personalized and authentic teaching where students are inspired to develop the tools to become life-long learners, successful leaders, and responsible global citizens. 

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