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Easing Transition
FIS counselors o er support for kids – and parents – on the move
The end of the school year is fast approaching, which means that some (or many) of our students and families will say goodbye, and move to another place in the world.
“FIS has students coming and leaving year-round, but the summer break is when most transitions take place,” Upper School Counselor Je  Kalas says. “As school counselors, we do not leave families alone in this process; there are many supporting activities we organize for both students and parents.”
FIS has students from age 3 to 18, but the e ects of moving seem to be similar for all age groups. “All children struggle with feelings of loss and sadness,” Upper School Counselor Zina Sawabini says. “But coping with transitions tends to get harder when children reach the Upper School years. On the other hand, the older the kids get, the more often they tend to have moved before, which makes it a lot easier. And let’s not forget, our students usually have strong feelings of excitement and adventure about moving to a new place,” she adds.
“For leaving Grade 6-8 students, we organize a group session about a week before school ends, where we have a joint discussion about their move,” Mr. Kalas says. “We address questions like ‘What am I losing?’‘What have I gained from my stay here?’‘What concerns do I have about my move?’ and ‘What do I look forward to?’. Sharing their personal experiences among peers is very helpful for them.” Similar activities take place with older students, too, and students leaving FIS receive a special t-shirt, which they can have signed by all their friends on the last day of school.
“In the Primary School, we get all leaving students together and read a story with them that matches the topic,” Primary School Counselor Lucie Nuehlen says. “Because the children recognize elements in the story, they start talking and sharing experiences. We talk about pros and cons of their move, how they feel about it, and what they can do to make things easier. For example, maybe their parents will allow them to pack their own toys. We also spend time with their parents to help them prepare for their family’s transition. We show them it is important to take time for saying goodbye.” In this context, FIS organizes a whole- school assembly on the last school day where students and teachers jointly say goodbye to all who leave.
“It takes away anxiety when you let your kids be part of your transition process,” Ms. Sawabini adds. “Do some research together on your new place and see if you can sign your children up for their favorite sports upfront. Jointly choose your new house, and if you have the opportunity, visit your new place and the new school before it starts.”
Ms. Nuehlen continues, “Don’t forget to take a break every once in awhile. It is so easily forgotten when so much needs to be organized, but it works to take time as a family, to talk, or just simply relax.”
FIS is the ideal world for families in transition. Most
students and families have moved multiple times, and know exactly what that is like. “This includes our teachers,” Ms. Nuehlen adds. “Our teachers are experienced in
keeping an eye on students who are going through the leaving process or those staying behind, as well as on those who are new to our school. Both teachers and parents contact the counselors whenever they have a concern, and we spend time with the students to  nd ways to help them.”
“What is great to realize, for both the leavers and the ones who stay behind, is that the friendships are not lost with a move, they just change,” Ms. Sawabini says. “It is so easy to stay connected these days. And that is exactly what we advise our students to do: stay in touch. I have had students walk into my o ce, while they were ‘Facetiming’ with a former student. They were so excited to talk to and see each other, and share that with me.”
Clearly, transitioning is not always easy, but it also teaches our children to become true world citizens, resilient, more  exible to change, and open minded to di erent cultures and habits. Though the question ‘Where is home?’ may not always be an easy one to answer, they grow up with friendships built around the world. And they are lucky to be supported in their moves by the friendly, open and caring environment that FIS provides.
Corrie Korink - Zoetekouw FIS Parent
The traditional last-day-of-school send-o  from faculty and sta 
May 2017 FIS World 5

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