Tips for expat families starting New York schools

T's family drawing to put above J's changing mat

Many New York schools start term again tomorrow, closed since mid-June (Yes. Summer vacations really are that long over here).

For any expats gearing up for their first New York school experience this term, here are some tips.

Make yourself available for new friendships

This is a fantastic chance to make new friends for your kids but also for you, the expat parents. When you are all waiting around at school pick up and drop off, it’s a great chance to get to know local families. I’d say 90% of my social contact here is through other school parents, something I hadn’t experienced back in England as our kids were too young for school.

Expect your kids to be starving and thirsty at 3 o’clock

After a summer of eating their favourite foods at home, they’re going to have a shock when faced with school meals. Especially if they’re not yet used to American food. We found that everything tasted different when we first moved, even the bread, butter and milk. Bring a snack and some ice cold water for pick up time.

Head to the playground straight afterwards while the weather holds

New York Fall is astonishingly quick. Blink and you’ll miss it. Take the kids to the nearest public playground after school to let off steam while you still can. This is another way to cement new friendships, as it’s one of the simplest, low-maintenance ways to hang out outside school as everyone’s there already. Here’s my review of the best downtown Manhattan playgrounds.

Check your vaccines

New York schools have different vaccination requirements to the UK, and they will badger you constantly until you’ve either had them all, or have completed formal documentation explaining why you are abstaining. These include Chicken Pox and Hep C. When I heard about this, I wasted a lot of time trying to get the Chicken Pox vaccine in London. My advice – don’t even bother. You can’t get hold of the second part of the vaccine in the UK. Just register for your local pediatrician before school, and get them to fill in any the gaps.

Get ready for some guess work

If this is your child’s first time at ‘big school’, prepare yourself for the absence of detail. Teachers won’t be providing daily reports on what your child ate, read and enjoyed. You may find your school writes a blog post every couple of weeks to share photos and accounts of the class activities. Oh, and make sure you read the school HTML newsletter, if there is one. This is where you’ll find out all the vital stuff your kid will never think to tell you.

Brace yourself for some new American phrases at home

T’s picked up “For real” at summer camp, it’s all I can do to stop myself correcting her with “Say Really” each time. I’ve decided it’s time to let go. We have been here two years, after all.

This month’s Highs & Lows:
  • I’ve made two new friends through the blog this past month. Two Brits (separately) contacted me through the blog with their own experiences of moving here, and we’ve ended up meeting and hanging out.  It’s something I really enjoy about expat life, everyone opens themselves up and welcomes new friends. I don’t think it’s always that easy if you don’t have young kids, so I’m making sure I appreciate it now
  • The weather has finally dropped down from the mid-30s C, the humidity has faded and the breeze has picked up again. Thank god. Whenever I found I was loosing my **it at the kids, I’d have to pause and check if the air conditioning was on
  • Teaching B to scoot and T how to cycle (with stabilisers). Battery Park City is perfect for this as there’s the long pedestrian stretch all the way up the Hudson River, so you don’t have to worry about traffic
  • This one’s a bit mean, but it really was terribly funny. Baby J had his first encounter of solid food … by swallowing a fly in the playground. He was in my arms as the girls clamboured about a climbing frame, and he suddenly shot his arms out, bared his precious toothless gums and started smacking his lips and looking astonished. Nice bit of protein for him
  • Getting utterly, utterly trounced by our three and five year old daughters at bowling last weekend at Chelsea Piers. I mean it’s not like I was really trying or anything…
    Bowlmor at Chelsea Piers
    T & B trouncing me at bowling

    If you enjoyed that post, perhaps you’d like to vote for me to win Best Writer at the Mumsnet Blogging Awards 2016. Voting closes on 7th October. Here’s how.

    And finally, if you’re considering a move between New York and the UK, check out this removals company.

Author: Alex

Hello. Toddling Round New York is my own little blog of our family's experience of moving young kids from London to New York... And of having a baby out here. They are my own baby steps of exploring this incredible city. I lived in five countries in four continents growing up, so you'd think I'd be good at this by now. Here you'll find stories and photographs of our adventures, the highs and the lows of expat parenthood, and some ideas I hope you'll find useful if you're in New York with young kids.

3 thoughts on “Tips for expat families starting New York schools”

  1. So glad I found your blog!! Uk expat living in NYC (BPC/ Fidi) and so many of your posts are helpful! Thank you for sharing your experiences 🙂

    1. Hi Sam, welcome to the blog! Thanks for the great feedback, I’m so glad you’ve found it helpful. Any other topics you wish I’d write about?

  2. On our way back from Cape Cod, and your blog makes a fab car read. Definitely feeling the back to school vibe now!

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