The move from primary to secondary school is, for most children, a mixture of both excitement and anxiety. Along with the anticipation of making new friends, being treated like more of an adult, and learning new things, comes the anxiety of wondering what their new school will be like, worrying about stricter teachers and a bigger work load, and being around older students and people they’ve never met before. Although this is a lot of emotion to be feeling at once for an 11 year old, it’s perfectly normal. Children are adaptable, so some will welcome the change and find it easy, however a large majority can struggle to cope with the change and will struggle to benefit from all the new and exciting opportunities secondary school has to offer. This blog will offer some ideas on how to make the transition from primary to secondary school easier on both parent and child.
Although children are more adaptable to change then they realise, there are things you can do to make things easier, and things you can think about doing now that will help your child adjust and settle in quickly.
- Build your child’s confidence. Settling in easily is all about having good self-esteem. Studies show that children who have a high self-esteem are less likely to be bullied or become a bully. With confidence, they are more likely to integrate into a wide circle of friends, and say ‘no’ to anything they don’t feel comfortable with. So think, when did you last pay them a compliment? Tell them how great they are! Or how funny they are. By doing this daily you’ll see their confidence soar.
- Listen to their worries. Your child is possibly anxious and also afraid their concerns will seem silly. For example, if they become lost in the maze of corridors, what should they do? They could make their way to the school office – they should have a map – or find a pupil or teacher to direct them. What they shouldn’t do is hide in the toilets until the lesson is over. Talk through the options with them. Do this for every concern they may have so that they know you take it seriously.
- Remind your child that being a good friend, especially to the quieter children, is one way to make friends. Be encouraging if they want to invite friends home and suggest it if they don’t.
- Show that you feel positive about their school and “talk it up”(even if it was not your first choice). If you have high expectations, these will be reciprocated by your child.
- Have a trial run of the route, especially if they walk. If they miss a school bus home you need to talk through what they will do, especially if you are working and can’t pick them up straight away.
- Get up earlier during the last week of the holidays so that early starts for school aren’t a shock to the system.
- Stick to the uniform code. Your child will feel more comfortable from day one.
- Make sure they have emergency money and credit on their mobile phone – if it’s allowed in school.
- Think about any changes you might need to make at home so they have the time, space and energy for homework. In the first couple of weeks you should check their homework diary daily and if it looks empty, check with other parents or the school. You want to be sure they haven’t forgot to write anything down.
- Encourage them to join lunchtime or after-school clubs. They are a great way to make friends. If after half a term they really don’t enjoy it, they can drop it.
Overall, secondary school is a huge but fun adjustment for children. It’s where they make solid groups of friends that they stick with for five or more years, and is there first chance of experiencing real responsibility and adult tasks. Give them a few weeks to settle in, and make sure you know who to call if they are experiencing any problems.