Helping Your Children to make the Educational Transition

by Emily Downey

You’re departure date is now all set, the moving company has been arranged, you are off to another country, or returning home, as another adventure awaits. As the day nears, you seem to draw almost superhuman strength in the way you seem to manage and organize moving your whole family thousands of miles away. You wonder how your kids are going to adjust to their new life, and feel some guilt at uprooting them from their life, friends, teachers and schools. You know in the long run it will strengthen them in life’s journey, but how do you tell a six-year-old that he has to say goodbye to life as he knows it? For some of you it may be a welcome change, but for most of you it will be a time of uncertainty, anxiety and stress.

International schools are very familiar with your situation, after all combined, they have seen thousands of families come and go from Tokyo over the past several decades. So it makes sense to consult them on how to ease your child’s transition to their new life, and new school.

Most international schools in the Tokyo region offer student support and counseling for a wide range of issues, one of them being relocating and saying goodbye. In most cases it is on a request basis, and not a mandatory part of the leaving process. This may be a good option for those of you who think their children are really taking it hard and showing signs of distress such as unexplained crying, inability to sleep and loss of appetite. Others may want to seek counseling as a preventative measure, to fully prepare the children for what may lay ahead. A few, or even several sessions may make a real difference in how well your children handle the change.

When it comes to announcing your departure, some schools make a bigger deal of it than others. Some schools make a formal announcement to the whole school at the end of year performance, others may just announce it in the class. One school said they prepare a special T-shirt for everyone to sign. In most cases, kids are still included in the yearbook, and it is sent to you if a new address is provided. If you are in any way concerned about how the announcement is made, then it would be best to consult the school as soon as possible to discuss the best way for your child. Each school seems to have its own uniform way of dealing with departing students, and it may not suit your particular situation. Of course there is nothing stopping you from having a big sayonara party with your kid’s friends and their families, viewing the leaving as a celebration rather than a commiseration. Saying ‘see you later’ rather than goodbye is a simple way to part for young kids taking away some of the finality and leaving the door open to meet at another time in life.

Most international schools in the
Tokyo region offer student support
and counseling for a wide range of
issues, one of them being relocating
and saying goodbye.

For older students, from middle school age for example, schools usually prepare all their academic records and transcripts to be given to the new school. International schools seem most accommodating in any type of academic record request, for example, a teacher’s report or recommendation of your child may be required to enter a new school. Again if you are in any way unsure, consult your school on the academic procedure as they have dealt with this many times before.

If your child is old enough to remember their time in Japan, I am sure it will be looked upon as a fond memory. In fact, many people who were schooled here, end up returning to Japan in adulthood, some to visit their old friends while on holiday, others to live and work as their parents did. Most, if not all of the major schools students have chapters all over the world where former students of all previous years can meet up. If you choose to keep in contact with your school, you can be added to their school magazine mailing list, as a way to keep in touch with what is going on. And of course each school has its own website and email address to use as a way of
maintaining contact.

You will probably find that, much like entering an international school, leaving is handled with as much care and consideration where all the assistance you need is there—as long as you ask for it.

To help your kids with the move—physically and psychologically—check out these sites:
Various links for parents and kids, with tips on making the
move easier.
Some general tips to keep in mind, before boarding the plane.