Imagine the scenario. A 16 year student sobbing in a school teacher’s classroom because on the surface it would appear that he is struggling to cope with the stress of his first semester school examinations. Only to discover that this young man has a known history of anxiety. When he transitioned between international schools and countries at the beginning of the school year, he lost contact with his professional support network and thus someone to review his medication, carefully monitor his well-being, whilst providing him with much needed additional support.
How can we ensure that we intentionally step up our support during a transition for our internationally mobile young people who may have a history of anxiety and or depression?
Prioritize This Child When we move countries, the chances are we are juggling every aspect of our lives. However, the support a child with a history of anxiety and or depression needs must be at the top of our priority list.
Communicate With Professionals As soon as you know your child will be moving schools or going to college, tell your child’s professional support person and or team. They will have experience of stepping up their support to guide your child through a transition. It is important to work closely with this person and or team to carefully plan this transition.
Communicate With School or College As soon as you arrive at a new international school please reach out to the person at school who is responsible for social and emotional well being. Tell this person of your child’s medical history, any medication they are taking, the nature of their external professional support and that you would like to work closely with them over the next six months, as a minimum, to closely support your child’s transition.
If your child is transitioning to college, find out in advance about the college’s medical and student support services. If you are able to take your child to college then prioritize registering with the medical practice and having a meeting with a member of the student support service team to communicate your child’s medical history, treatment and discuss a plan of action of support. Be sure to leave this meeting with this person’s direct contact information. If you are not able to be with your child for this stage of their transition then either work with your child to support them with the steps above or attend the above sessions remotely. It is important to have a conversation with your child before they leave for college about your agreed plan of action.
Six Month Plan Move with six months worth of medication, if applicable to your child’s treatment. Don’t rely on being able to find the medication your child needs in their new country.
Ideally, your child will be able to continue to work with their known and trusted therapist. Schedule in advance all therapeutic sessions for the first six months of your move, keeping in mind possible new time zones. Establish that your child’s therapist will offer remote sessions. It may be that your child’s therapist can support a six month transition but can then guide you to find a therapist in your new location, if face to face sessions are a preferred option.
Reach Out Intentionally reach out to your support network to support you. It may be that you need to have a conversation with your child’s grandmother, godparent and or another trusted adult in your child’s life and explicitly tell them that you need them to step up their support for your child at this time so there is an extra pair of eyes monitoring and supporting this child.
If your child is going off to college, talk to them about who is in their support network. Help them to identify at least four people who they will reach out to if they are struggling and remind them of their tried and tested well-being strategies. E.g exercise twice a week as a minimum, getting at least eight hours sleep five days a week etc.
Keep these five tips in mind, especially at this time of the year, as young people transition between schools and or to college.
Mental health awareness needs to be a daily part of all our lives. We need a clear intentional plan of action to support those kids who maybe struggling a bit more than others.
Reach out if you feel you or your child needs a little bit of extra support and guidance to manage a healthy, happy, safe and successful school or college transition.