Helping Your Child Make the Transition to Secondary School
Starting a new school is always difficult, but starting a secondary school that may be 10 times bigger than your child’s former primary school can be daunting. Some children start Year 7 with a large group of friends they already know. Others aren’t so lucky.
Often, the summer before Year 7 is a frightening time, filled with fears about secondary school and what new terrors could be waiting just around the corner.
Parents can help alleviate those fears by making the unknown known, and acclimatising the child as much as possible to what really should be a new, fun-filled adventure, one that should be looked forward to eagerly.
Potential WorriesEvery child is different, and every child has his or her own worries about starting a new school. Knowing what their concerns could be can help you address them better. Here are some of the most common fears:
- Making new friends
- Being bullied
- Getting lost in school
- Getting lost on the journey to school or losing their busy money and not being able to get back
- Not being able to keep up with a large amount of homework
- Falling behind academically
- Coping with a lot of different teachers and potentially confusing timetables
Learn the RouteFor many children – and many parents – the scariest thing about starting a new school is the journey there and back. For children who have never walked alone anywhere before, having to travel by themselves – often on public transport – can be pretty frightening.
Parents can make their child’s journey easier by staging several trial runs before school starts. Accompany your child on the bus, the Tube or the train, and let them know how easy it can be. If you can find children making the same route, more than half the battle is won.
You might also want to think about what they’ll do if the train doesn't turn up, or if there’s a Tube strike. Help your child plan an alternative route just in case.
Making New FriendsMany children move up to secondary school with friends they already know; others will be starting on their own. Making an effort to meet a few pupils in who live in your neighbourhood beforehand can make all the difference.
If your child is going to a school in another catchment area, finding friends may be difficult. Ask the school secretary if they can contact pupils who live closest to you for you, and pass on your telephone number.
Attending any open days or school get-togethers beforehand can also have a positive effect. You might also consider enrolling your son or daughter in an activity located near the school, both to meet new people and help build their confidence when it comes to meeting new faces.
Putting New Routines in PlaceIt’s never too early to start putting new routines in place. Look online for a school timetable and help your child get accustomed to it. Set aside a proper homework area, and help your child get used to the idea of regular homework. You may even want to start doing an hour a day of revision before the term begins.
This can also be an appropriate time to discuss what is expected of your child, now that he or she is in “big school”. Will you expect them to come home directly from school? Will they be given their own mobile phone? What about a curfew, and dating?
For many children, starting secondary school is the first time they have a chance to really exercise their independence. While you want them to grow up into independent thinkers, exercise a bit of caution and don’t let them go overboard. Now might be a good time to discuss smoking/drinking and sex.
Fears Are NormalSome kids feel alone when they leave primary school, and think they are the only people in the world feeling anxiety about embarking on something new. Tell your child that this step is just one of many similar steps they’ll take in their lifetime, from starting university to starting new jobs and moving to new cities.
Moving up to secondary school is a big step, and it’s normal for children to feel a bit fearful. Make sure the doors of communication remain open, and don’t dismiss their fears, no matter how trivial they might seem to you. A problem shared really is a problem halved.