So, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that your kids have recently gone back to school and had a couple of weeks to settle in before the Eid break. If you opted for a brand-new school this year, then it’s possible they haven’t even started yet or perhaps they only had a few days of routine before it was holiday time again! Many children settle well into school at the beginning of a new academic year, as the long summer holidays come to an end even, they are keen to see friends again and get back to the serious business of learning. This isn’t true for all children though – so how do you know if your child is just having a few ‘teething’ issues with going back to school or if there are more complex issues at play – perhaps it’s even possible that the school you thought would be ‘perfect’ for them just hasn’t worked out that way.
Having spent many years working with children and families in schools and particularly during the first few weeks there are lots of emotions at play – for both children and parents. In Dubai we have a wide variety of schools to choose from, and whilst at first glance this seems great it also provides us with a desire to find the ‘best’ school for our child – but what does this really mean and what do you do if the ‘best’ school turns out not to be the ‘right’ school for your child?
I often see advice given to Dubai newbies – “find your child’s school first and then find a place to live…”, this tells me that we place a huge importance on where our children are educated – enough to often place it first on our list of priorities. Any decision this important goes hand in hand with big emotions; guilt – I’ve moved my child across the world, away from family and friends, I have to make sure they are happy at school, fear – what if my child isn’t happy at school, what happens then, stress – I’m starting work next week and my child doesn’t want to go to school in the morning, what can I do?, anger – I’m paying huge school fees, spent ages finding the right school and they just aren’t giving my child what he/she needs.
The good news is, there are things you can do to help with all the above:
- When your child comes home from school, listen to them – before asking how their day went, give them a chance to tell you what is on their mind – this will give you an honest picture of how they are feeling. Be present when they come out of school, we all like to chat to our friends but giving them your full attention for the first few minutes will give them a huge burst of connection when they really need it.
- If they tell you something of concern about school, instead of rushing in to fix it, listen, empathise and give yourself time to reflect on whether this is a one-off issue or something that does need your attention and action.
- If you are concerned, speak to your child’s teacher or form tutor first and gather as much information as you can on what’s happened. If you still aren’t happy, then ask to meet with the Head of Key Stage, Head of Year or Head of School if necessary.
- We’ve all been in situations and jobs where no matter what changes are made, it just isn’t going to work. If you feel this way about your son or daughter’s school, then seriously consider moving them. It isn’t always the solution to every problem but sometimes, a fresh start or a school with a different perspective can be the right decision for your child.
- It is possible to move children during the school year, although it may be more complicated if your child is in an exam year. It may be necessary to get a special dispensation from the KHDA to move at certain times and they are supportive if you can demonstrate that it’s in the child’s best interests to be moved – I’ve always found them very helpful, and they place a high emphasis on children’s happiness.
You know your child best so follow your instinct, listen to what they tell you and as I’ve said to many parents over the years, a happy child is one that will achieve their best at school.
Our next series of Mindfulness Practice workshops for Parents begins in October in Dubai. Please visit our workshops page for more details and information on how to join. I look forward to seeing you there.