Most children went back to school in September and had a couple of weeks to settle in before the Eid break started again. If you opted for a brand new school this year, it’s quite possible that they’ve had even more time off, or perhaps they only had a few days of routine before it was holiday time again. 

As the long summer holidays came to an end, it was easy for many children to settle back into school at the beginning of a new academic year;  many would have been keen to see friends again and were eager to get back to the serious business of learning. But this isn’t true for all children.

How do you know if you’re 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. 

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?

 British Mums chatted to Joanne Jewell, Parenting Educator at Mindful Parenting and mum of three boys, who has spent many years working with children and families in schools, and has seen that, particularly during the first month or so, there are lots of emotions at play – for both children and parents.

Joanne says “I often see advice given to newcomers to Dubai – “find your child’s school first and then find a place to live…” This indicates 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, I’ve spent ages finding the right school and they just aren’t giving my child what he or she needs.”

 The good news is, Joanne advises there are things you can do to help with all the above:

Listen to your child 

“When your child comes home from school, listen to them – so before asking how their day went, give them a chance to tell you what’s on their mind and this 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.”

Speak with the teacher first 

“If you are concerned, always 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 even escalate to the Head of School if it’s necessary, and always after following the school’s recommended steps.

We’ve all been in situations and jobs where no matter what changes are made, it just isn’t going to work, so 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 always follow your instinct, listen to what they tell you and ultimately a happy child is one that will achieve their best at school.

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