My son has gone to 9 different schools in 5 countries in 10 years. Not only have the physical locations been many, the teaching languages have switched quite a few times too; Danish, German, English, Swedish, German / French, back to English and right now German again. I know – we are horrible parents!
I have friends who would rather split their families, living for years in two different countries, than have their kids switch schools, thinking moving your kids could ruin their lives. There is no right way – and no wrong way. Everyone has to decide for themselves. But this is our story, about how we have coped.
I should add that I have a daughter too. She has been through 6 schools in 4 countries, so far. Both kids are getting excellent school results and they are open, social and confident kids. I give the many changes they’ve had the credit for this.
Generally I think kids are quite flexible. Adjusting to new languages is a lot easier when you are younger. Also, having two kids close in age has helped. They always had each other and could turn to the other one for support, as they were in the same boat. Having one parent at home full time certainly helps too, as I have always been there for them 100% in a way I would not have been able to if working.
We have switched schools during the summer break as well as during the year in the middle of a term. None is better than the other – both situations have advantages. But if you ask the schools they normally prefer to get the kids at the beginning of a new school year. Makes sense regarding school material as well. However, employers don’t always think that way so we’ve had to be flexible.
I can’t even remember how many times I have been told that all this country hopping is a bad choice. People suddenly blame the weirdest things on our moves.
Like my daughters speech delay. Sounds like a reasonable explanation since she grew up with 4 languages spoken in the house, right? But what about my son who had the same situation? He was in fact an early speaker – easily handling multiple languages. And what about all the kids who grow up monolingual, never even moved houses and still have a speech delay?
Another example was when my son got bullied at one of the schools. The principal actually told me we only had ourselves to blame for moving countries like this – when fact is that kids get bullied all the time, for any reason. (Our solution was to switch schools – problem solved!)
The truth is that there are many different factors that effect your kids childhood, and there are plenty of worse things that could happen to kids than moving city / country / schools. Your bad attitude for example.
Like with so many other things in life, how we choose to approach situations will totally affect the outcome. If I tell my kids I am sorry for moving them from one country to the other and thereby “ruining their chance of ever having friends” or any other similar negative thought – they are going to have a tough time adjusting.
If I on the other hand tell my kids that I think we are really lucky to have an exciting life like this where they get the possibility to see so much and experience so many different cultures and languages and get to know many new friends – chances are pretty good that they will enjoy the ride. Mine certainly have.
By Lisa Fuchs, October 2015