There are many observations and pearls of wisdom that I have heard over my time as a parent:
“It gets better”
“Try not to be anxious about it, they smell your fear.”
“Oh I breastfed my children until they were one and they never get colds.”
“You can’t give in to them or they will just keep doing it.”
“I’m sure that’s perfectly normal but perhaps just go to the doctors to check it out.”
“My my, what spirited children you have.”
In relation to all this moving around the world business we keep subjecting them to (OK it’s only been twice in five years but it feels pretty regular from where I’m sitting), you often get one of the most popular phrases about children said to you:
“Children are really resilient, they will adapt to the changes.”
And it’s true. Children are resilient and they do adapt. However, that 10-word sentence does not tell you how they will adapt, or what you should do to help them through change, or at what point you will have pushed their resilience too far.
In terms of change, emigrating to another country is arguably one of the biggest you can experience in your life. My children have done it twice already, and I have a sneaky suspicion they will be doing it at least one more time whilst they’re living under our roof. As they were babies the first time, they don’t remember that change at all. Our eldest was two and a quarter and she doesn’t remember the house in Liverpool, the friends she had, the long flight over. All they both know is Christchurch, New Zealand. For them, that is home and where all their memories are from.
Which means even though this second move is in fact us coming back to our home country, they view it as emigrating. Yes they are coming back to the place where all our family live, but as we have moved to a part of the UK that their parents don’t know and where we have no family nearby, it is essentially moving to a foreign country!
It’s a big change for them and nearly six months on, they are still processing it. So yes they adapt, but it doesn’t happen overnight. This rang true to me yesterday, when I was talking to the head teacher of their new school.
We are celebrating a victory this week. Minnie has finally been given a place in the village school.
One of the biggest challenges a family will face when they move, even just from one town to another, is getting their child(ren) into school. Where you live is crucial to where your children go to school. We got it wrong in New Zealand. We bought a house that we loved on a street we loved, only to find out two years later, when Minnie was about to start school, that we were 14 houses out-of-zone for the school that was closest to us. Despite me creating a brochure on how awesome our daughter was, the school’s hands were tied and as the in-zone school didn’t have great reviews, we had to apply for out-of-zone places to schools further away. Wonderfully, both our children got into a fantastic school and the only downside was that I had to drive them.
I was determined to get it right this time. Unfortunately, over in the UK, even when you live in a house that is in-zone for the school you want, you might not get a place, because it’s a numbers game over here. If they have too many already in, then you’re out. It took seven weeks from landing to get the children in a school that was five miles away. A lovely school, but not our village school. We joined the waiting list. Then in September, we found out that there was a space for Jackson – yay! Surely, they would then take his big sister, who is in Key Stage Two where you can push out the class size and she’s such a lovely, compliant pupil, a blessing to all teachers who are fortunate enough to have her in their class? Nope.
What had been really good news, turned into the worst news. Now I had two children in two schools, that begin and end at the same time, but are five miles apart. You do the math on that one.
In short, not an ideal situation. Thankfully, you can appeal. Which we did. And like a beautiful miracle, a rainbow in the sky, an unexpected gift, we won! In two weeks time, BOTH my children will be pupils at the delightful village school, where they can make friends, introduce me to their friend’s mummies so I can make friends, have play dates after school and most delightfully of all WALK TO SCHOOL!
I’ve totally digressed from what I was going to tell you, but it’s good news, and who doesn’t like good news? Plus it’s scene setting…
…so I am talking to the rather disgruntled (remember the school didn’t want to take Minnie) head teacher as she rather brutally, but at the same time graciously says even though she’s not happy Minnie has been given a place, she can start after half term (it was hard to hear but her honesty makes me think I will grow to like this woman and I’m determined to show her that having the full team Cowles in her school will be the BEST THING EVER). Concerned that Minnie may get wind of this conflicted welcome, I tactfully say that I hope they will help Minnie settle as she has just found her place in the second of three schools she has attended in one year, and although she is the best pupil ever and a blessing to any classroom she comes into, she may need extra encouragement as she once again gets to know another classroom of strangers. In her reassurances that they will, the head teacher comments that in fact, Jackson had said he was missing his old school. But not the second one, the first one, in NZ.
And this is my point. What I wanted to say right from the start, but took a long walk to get to.
Children do adapt to change. In twenty years time, this change will be one of many character building changes that our children will have adapted to and learnt just how resilient, courageous and awesome they are. But right now, in what Americans might call “the adaption phase”, change can feel tough and overwhelming for our little people. It isn’t an overnight thing.
So in Part Two (I’ve split this up into two blogs, otherwise I break one of the golden rules of blog writing, “Don’t try to fit a book into one blog, rather make a book out of many blogs and cash in!”) I’m going to tell you what I have learned about helping children adapt to change.
Nail biting stuff hey.