After the exhausting and stressful admissions process, your child has now made the change to secondary school.
They will hopefully have made some new friends that will contribute to making the transition easier. But what can you do to help?
As with younger children the crucial thing is to answer any questions they may have and, if you don’t have the answer yourself, work with them to find one. They may be that bit older, but things that may seem insignificant to you could be keeping them awake at night.
Children of this age will have very different apprehensions to those beginning primary school and most will revolve around ‘fitting in’ amongst their peers. When buying their school uniform you will probably have been supplied by the school with a comprehensive list of what they will need, but your son or daughter may also have some ideas of their own! Whilst you may not, quite rightly, want to bow to pressure to buy expensive trainers, bags or jackets, bear in mind that your child is at an age where ‘wearing the right thing’ is important to them and take their requests into account before coming to a mutually acceptable solution. It is amazing what a difference this can make to self confidence at an age when image is important but, obviously, school guidelines and family budgets also have to be taken into account and hopefully your child will respect that.
The emphasis on their life at secondary school will be independence. The more you can do to encourage them to be independent, the better; beginning with the journey to and from school. As much as we parents may not like it, it really isn’t ‘the done thing’ to be waving your loved one in through the school gate and be waiting there for them at the end of the day.
If possible, they will benefit from being able to travel to and from school under their own steam. If they will be walking to school, it would be nice if they have a friend to walk with. If you haven’t already succumbed, you may think about getting your child a mobile phone so that they can get hold of you if they have any problems on the way. If they are travelling by public transport you may want to point out any shops or other places that may be a good point of assistance should they encounter any problems.
Common anxieties on the move to secondary school include stricter punishments, harder work and being in the same ‘tutor group’ or ‘form’ as their friends. You can reassure your child that punishments may seem stricter than at primary school but only to those that break the rules! Also, punishments are put in place to make the school a better environment for everybody. It would be unfair for some children to not to complete homework or to bully other children and not be punished when the majority of students are doing their best and treating others with respect.
With regards to the level of work, they should find that this follows on from what they are used to at primary school. The school will know at what level they are working from their SATs scores, and will pitch the work appropriately for them. They will be expected to complete more homework than they may be used to and this is where support from you will be helpful. If given a quiet place to complete homework, help if needed, and encouragement to get it completed fairly early on in the evening, it really shouldn’t have too much impact on their lives and also gives you the chance to become more involved in their learning.
Help your child with tips on how to engage with people and bring up a conversation with somebody. Nobody can pretend that this is something that comes particularly easily, but it will be a short term thing and soon enough they will feel a lot more at ease in their new friendship groups.
Finally, every child is different and they will all have different concerns. At this age they are torn between wanting to be independent but sometimes not quite having the life experience to resolve all of their own problems. The most important thing you can do as a parent, or carer, is to keep the lines of communication open so that they know that in their quest to be self reliant, help is always there if needed.