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You are here: Home Family & Kids Kids Minimizing child challenges when repatriation is abrupt
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27/10/2010Minimizing child challenges when repatriation is abrupt

Minimizing child challenges when repatriation is abrupt Due to the recession, some families are being moved home earlier than had been planned, or transferred to local status. How does an abrupt repatriation affect your kids? How will it affect their schooling and emotional well being? Elizabeth Perelstein reports.

The Social Experience
It is commonly known that repatriation is difficult. Repatriation for children may be as hard, if not harder, than it is for adults. Just as for their parents, children have changed as a result of their time abroad, and so have their friends back home. Fitting in with the old group isn't easy and, in fact, may not be possible.

Expectations of the return home are typically high. For many children, the entire assignment has been spent waiting for this date. Invariably, hopes are shattered, and the former community doesn't meet a child's expectations.

The Academic Experience

Among children who repatriate, whether or not they return to their previous town or city, curriculum rarely matches, courses may be taught in a different sequence and students may find that they lack prerequisites for classes they are about to take.

Other children find that they have already read the books on their reading list, or may be ahead in their foreign language. Teachers may feel threatened by their advanced levels of knowledge or simply may not know how to teach a child who is out of step with his or her classmates. For high school students, meeting exit requirements for graduation may not be possible or may require significant negotiation or manipulation.

The Current Climate
The present economic climate has caused companies to look carefully at every expenditure, and expatriate packages are easy targets. Families are being moved home earlier than had been planned or transferred to local status. These corporate decisions have a huge impact on families with children who have expected to complete an academic year in one location, or had not applied to desired private schools within the necessary timetable.

In addition to the typical challenges that repatriating children face, children moved home abruptly may have a more difficult time getting into private or specialized public schools that do not offer mid-year admissions.

They may not have the ability to participate on sports teams or in plays or musical groups because these roles already have been filled. They may lack knowledge or prerequisites to thrive in classes in a different country where a different curriculum is studied.

Even able children who may succeed without a foundation in a given subject may not be allowed to enter a class mid-year if placement testing is required. Time is a luxury that sudden repatriations do not permit.

Got to Go, What to Know
If you must move a family on short notice mid-year, providing them with an education departure toolkit goes a long way towards relieving anxiety for them and retaining their loyalty to you. A toolkit should prepare parents and children with what to expect and give them an approach for entering their new school environment.

Tips for Emotional Departure Success:

- Say goodbye well
- Take lots of pictures
- Revisit favourite places
- Get all important email addresses
- Have a party

Tips for Academic Departure Success:
- Identify key supporters at school and obtain contact details
- Take hard copies of transcripts and know how to obtain soft copies
- Ask school to write up basis for grading if appropriate
- Get teacher recommendations
- Talk to teachers about types of school where child would thrive in their new home
- Bring a description of curriculum by subject
- Gather awards, certificates, or physical evidence of qualifications achieved
- Bring medical certificates in hand luggage

Tips for Academic Success on Arrival:

- Have any documents translated
- Find out health requirements for the new school, and plan for a medical exam in the new home
- Understand age/grade relationships as well as schoolwork/grade relationships
- Discuss relative merits of age vs. schoolwork for grade placement with head of school
- Understand the curriculum
- Learn the application process and deadlines
- Be an advocate for your child about entering sports and other extracurricular programs mid-year

Most of all, parents must understand and take the time to explain to their children that they have done nothing to cause the premature move. Children have to be able to save face in front of their friends.

Families might want to develop a script explaining that economic circumstances have affected everyone worldwide, and for different people the consequences have played out in different ways. In some cases, parents have lost jobs, others have moved to new houses and their family has moved home early.

Written by Elizabeth Perelstein, President and Founder of School Choice International This article is also featured online at

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