Shayne Raffaud, principal at Mills International Preschool, believes that an indirect approach can sometimes be the most successful method for helping young children settle at their new school. "A number of strategies might be used, such as role-playing with soft toys and characters that the children identify with and 'look up to', to showing them they are not alone in feeling a little unsure during their first days," Raffaud says. "I ensure I have a stock of soft toys in my office [and I use these when explaining] 'Teddy is finding his feet also', or 'Spiderman would like a friend, as he too has just joined the class - may he sit with you?' Similarly, it is vital to have warm, patient teachers who can comfort children if need be. "Also, a well-structured and bouncy, busy school day that will transport children to fun and happy learning experiences can prevent them from thinking about how shy and new they feel. Most importantly, what is vital is an inherent belief that all children will succeed in settling in at Mills." The teachers at Mills International have specific techniques to encourage their young charges to not only feel at home, but also believe they are an important member of their new class. "All our teachers are trained in communicating with young children," Raffaud says. "Daily focused times - circle times - offer children time to feel close, a part of the 'group', and develop a valued growing personality that others want to get to know. Show-and-tell activities and meaningful topics that engage children can also help them feel they are part of an activity and the class in general. Our small classes and friendly, accessible teaching approach also help to make children want to come to school and do so with a skip in their step." However, despite this, some children may continue to feel shy, anxious or unhappy at being away from home and in a new and unfamiliar environment. Again, Raffaud believes that addressing any such problems in subtler ways can often produce the best results. "It depends on the child's age as to just how much a teacher can 'talk' about their feelings with them," she says. "Often, very young children are unable to explain why they feel a certain way and we can make things worse by obliging them to put their feelings into words. "Older children are sometimes able to 'draw' how they feel on paper, or tell a teddy what is wrong, and that is a very valuable way to gain insight and help them in expressing their feelings and moving forward to happier sentiments. In younger children, teachers can often sense a child's unhappiness in the ways they play and interact with both resources and their peers and teachers, and make the necessary changes in the class to ensure that the child no longer encounters what triggers a negative response." Raffaud says that if a child seems to be having persistent problems settling at Mills International, the preschool will swiftly inform their parents. "We believe education is a partnership between teachers and parents," she says. "We value the input parents have in helping us help their children to learn new things and grow and blossom in every way."