The move from primary school to secondary school/high school is a big step, and often a source of anxiety, for both kids and their parents. It can be hugely daunting for kids making this transition, as they go from being the oldest children in primary, to being the youngest in a much larger secondary school. But there are some ways that we, as parents, can help make the process a bit smoother – here are 14 Useful Tips To Ease Your Child’s Transition to Secondary School.
#1. Give Them Responsibility
One of the biggest changes of this phase of your child’s life is that they will be expected to take responsibility for their actions – if they have not done some homework, or have taken home the wrong textbooks, for example, they will have to answer for themselves.
Help them learn responsibility by letting them make decisions for themselves, and learning to live by their consequences. As parents we need to start letting go, and learning from bad decisions now will help them take responsibility in later years.
Do less, so they learn more – encourage them to be organised the night before, and get themselves up and ready for school in the mornings including making their own lunch etc.
#2. Label Everything!
Put your child/teens name on absolutely everything, (get it embroidered on if you can) if you want your child/teen to continue to wear the track suit top, shirt, or coat that you bought at the beginning of the year.
#3. Let Them Fit In
It can be tempting to buy an extra large uniform, to allow for growing room, but the last thing your child wants to do, is stand out like a sore thumb on the first few weeks of secondary school.
So make sure the uniform fits them correctly on day one – if you do want to buy a longer skirt/trousers, just take them up and let down as required when your child grows.
The same applies to school shoes or school bags – check out what is the standard for kids attending the school, and buy accordingly. They may not be as sturdy or long-lasting as you might like, and yes they make look exactly like everyone else, but that is really what they want!
#4. Help Them Get Organised
Secondary school is a lot busier than your child will have been used to – they will now have to contend with class changes, different teachers, having the right books for the next class, and schedules and timetables.
If school does not do this, help them develop schedules for the class timetable, extra-curricular timetable and homework timetable.
Some children will want help with this, others definitely not – but encourage your child to have a schedule, so that at a glance, they can see what their afternoon or next day will be like.
It’s also worth being organised the night before – encourage your child to lay out their uniform, complete all homework, and pack their schoolbags for the following day, before they go to bed.
#5. Check In with Homework
Your child will likely have more homework in secondary school than they will have been used to in primary school, and for some kids, this can all be quite daunting – so many subjects, so many textbooks.
Develop a regular homework timetable with your child, and prominently display where your child does their study.
Encourage them to start their homework soon after they come home from school, and make this the routine.
You need to give them responsibility for their own homework, so by all means check in with them, have a look at their homework journal, chat about what subjects they might have to cover tonight etc., but you can no longer be so involved in their homework, unless they specifically ask for help.
And encourage them to ask questions of teacher in class, or after class (daunting as this may seem) if they are unsure – they will most likely be helping others in their class as well as themselves.
#6. Set Up a Home Calendar/Schedule Now!
You will not be able to survive without it! It will be hard to keep on top of the afterschool activities, both those ones associated with school, and the ones your child participated in before secondary school, especially as schools assume (rightly) that life revolves around them.
They might not give you a whole lot of notice regarding the football training, basketball matches, the inter-school debates etc. And if your child is that way inclined he/she will be expected to, and will want to, participate fully in school activities.
#7. Ensure They’re Rested
Your child will be exhausted in these first few weeks/months of secondary school, so ensure your child is getting enough sleep each night.
Be strict about bedtimes and minimise technology in the bedrooms – and that goes for you parents too. It’s easier to get out of bed, and off to school in the mornings without much stress, once everyone has had enough sleep.
#8. Get Up Earlier
This may sound a bit contradictory to #5 above, but it pays to set your alarm clocks for 20-30 mins earlier in the mornings, initially anyhow, until you can get on top of the school routine.
Allowing yourselves some extra time in the morning means that any last minute emergencies that may arise can be easily dealt with, and not result in you dashing, late, to the school gates.
Order and routine really help in the transition and in coping with change, so setting a good example with ‘To Do’ lists the night before, going to bed early so you can get up earlier and ‘Being the change you want to see’ is what really works.
#9. Pay Attention to Time-Keeping & Attendance
Secondary schools pay enormous attention to attendance, and tardiness, with many schools attaching such importance to it, they have end of year “rewards” just for this. So the odd “sickie”, or regular late dash to the school gates, is not advised, especially as your child might suffer genuine illness during the year.
Plus it’s good for their integration if they can arrive early for school and socialise with their friends and peers before class starts, so build this into your morning schedule.
#10. Expect The Hunger
The longer school day combined with this teenage growing phase in their life, will probably mean they are ‘starving’ all the time! Make sure they pack more for lunch and snacks throughout this longer day, and have healthy snacks ready for them once they come home from school.
Consider moving dinner to an earlier time for the first few weeks and prepare quick and easy dinners or stock up your freezer in advance.
A healthy diet is important to fuel their growing bodies and busy minds, so ensure they are getting enough of the right foods. And don’t let them skip breakfast either – prepare in advance the night before, or have quick healthy breakfasts like porridge, or no-cook oats to set them up for the day.
#11. Make Time To Chat
Find time in your day to chat with them – around the dinner table can be a good time for most families.
Make it part of your daily routine to check in with them, and see if they have any worries or issues. If something is genuinely bothering them, don’t be afraid to approach the school – the staff are there to help your child settle into school and can often resolve any issues quickly.
#12. Encourage Them to Make Friends
The move to secondary school can often mean separating from their old primary friends, and even if their friends do go to the same school. they may be in different classes. This can make some children feel a bit insecure, not having familiar faces around.
Encourage them to join extracurricular activities, which offer good opportunities to meet like-minded children, and remind them of times in the past where they didn’t know anyone and had to make new friends.
Many schools offer induction days for new students in advance of school starting, so make sure that your child attends that day, as it can be a good opportunity to meet their classmates.
Finally, encourage your child to bring their friends home – opening your house to their friends can help you get to know them also.
#13. Make Sure They Have Free Time
It’s going to be really hectic for your kids in the first few weeks, as they come to grips with their new timetables, increased homework, different friends, and the changed routine.
So make sure they have plenty of unstructured free time – where they can just relax and hang out, and recharge their batteries. If possible, hold off restarting non-school extracurricular activities for the first few weeks.
#14. Accept the Change
There will be lots of change for parents too! It can be difficult for parents to relinquish control, as their child grows and becomes more independent, and you will find that you have less influence over them as they expand their circle of friends.
Plus you will have less interaction in their school, and may feel a bit separate from it. Now you cannot just pop in after drop-off and meet their teacher as now there are multiple teachers, classrooms etc., and the school is much larger.
These feelings are completely normal, but it will help you both if you can learn to accept the change – you may be surprised at how much your child grows up, and accepts these challenges.
- National Parents Council – Post Primary, www.npcpp.ie
- “Moving Up” From Primary to Post-Primary, A Parents’ Roadmap, by John Stevenson, available from your school or from www.booklink.ie
- Koemba Parent Coaching with Val Mullally at www.koemba.com/
- Courses on Career Coaching & Life Coaching for Parents are available at www.coachingpotential.com
Over to you! Have you any tips to help kids, and parents, navigate this transition to secondary school? Let us know in the comments below.