It is getting to that point in the academic year where year six children are looking ahead to the big changes coming their way in September – the transition from primary school to secondary school. It is a big change for any child, but with the disruption that children have faced during the past two school years, it is an even bigger deal.
Of course, it is an exciting transition for many children. They get their first taste of freedom; perhaps using a bus on their own for the first time or walking to school, and have to take more ownership over their own learning. They also have the opportunity to meet new friends and new teachers, and try new extra-curricular clubs and activities. However, it can also be quite an anxious transition too. A new school – usually much bigger than their primary. New teachers. New routines. Detentions.
It is not only the children who feel anxious about this big change. Parents can often feel it as well, sometimes even more so. It is a sign that the children are growing up and no longer need them quite as much.
Here, we look at some of the things that you can do to help to manage the transition between primary school and secondary school, not for just your child, but for you too.
It all comes down to self-confidence when it comes to fitting in at a new secondary school with new people. Children who have lots of confidence in themselves are less likely to be bullied, to bully others, or to join gangs. They are more likely to have a large group of mates. They will confidently say “no” to something that makes them feel uncomfortable. So, do not be afraid to tell them how awesome they are. When was the last time you complimented them? They don’t have to have done something extraordinary to get one; a compliment on how well they care for a pet, or that they are kind or respectful, will suffice. Do this on a regular basis and watch their confidence shoot through the roof.
Listen to and acknowledge their fears
Your child may be nervous and concerned that their worries will be dismissed as insignificant. For example, what should they do if they get lost in the labyrinth of corridors? They could go to the school office – they should have a map – or ask a fellow student or teacher for support. What they can not do is hide in the toilets until the lesson has finished. Discuss the solutions with them. Do this for any worries that they might have, so they know you are taking them seriously. Also, remind them that they are unlikely to be the only student with the same fears and concerns and that when one person asks, everyone else will be relieved.
Make sure that they have all of the resources that they need
These days, a reliable internet connection and a device to work from for homework and coursework are essential. It does not have to be expensive – some kids will be working from flashy laptops, sure, but there are some great tablets under 100 that let them do what they need to do. Do not forget the basics either – pencil case with pens, pencils, rulers, geometry equipment, scientific calculator, notebook and suitable backpack to carry it in. They will almost definitely need a PE kit – perhaps multiple ones, so check the uniform list over before September rolls around. There is nothing more embarrassing for kids than to not have the equipment that they need.
Remind them of the importance of being a good friend
Remind your soon-to-be-secondary-aged child that one way to make friends is to be a good friend, particularly to shy and quiet children. Encourage them to invite friends over, and recommend it if they don’t.
Model positivity about the changes coming their way
As we mentioned earlier in the post, parents are often just as anxious, if not more so, than their children about the transition from primary school to secondary school, but it is important to keep that anxiety in check to a degree. Of course, it is natural to be worried and letting them see that is also important but focus on the positivity and excitement about going to secondary school. This is particularly important if it was not the first-choice school or you have lost out on admission appeals. If your child picks up that you have negative feelings about a school, they are going to go in expecting the worse.
Have a trial run of the journey to school
However they are getting there, whether by bus, driven in, by foot or cycling, have a trial run to make sure that they know the way and roughly how long the journey will take in the mornings. Factor in things like bad weather, missed buses, extra traffic, and so on into the journey time – it is better to leave a little earlier and get there early and calmly rather than rushing in and ending up hot, sweaty, and flustered, especially in the early days. It is also important to have contingency plans – if the car breaks down, the buses stop running or they lose their bus fare, how will they get to and from school?
Consider the changes that might be needed at home
Secondary school children generally have a lot more homework than they did at primary school and it is much more intense. Do you have the space and time to accommodate this? It might mean cutting down the number of after school activity clubs that they attend, moving dinner time forward (or pushing it back), and looking at how you manage other children in order to minimise distractions. If you have younger children, could they be sitting at the table doing a quiet jigsaw or doing some colouring while their older siblings do their homework in peace?
Encourage joining lunchtime and after school clubs
These are great places for your child to make friends with similar hobbies and interests to them and to be a part of the wider school community. However, it is important to make sure that they do not overdo it, particularly in the first few weeks and months while they are trying to get to grips with new routines and homework loads.
Encourage participation in orientation events
Most schools will offer some sort of orientation events or activities in the last term before and the summer holidays, such as ‘meet your new class day’ and summer school events. It is important that your child – and you, if appropriate – attend these events and activities. They will provide you and them with important information about routines and procedures, but also give everyone a chance to meet other pupils, parents, and staff in the school community.
Keep to a good bedtime and healthy meals
One of the best ways that you can support your child is by implementing a good bedtime routine and making sure they eat well. It is recommended that a child has around eight hours of sleep a night – try to avoid screentime for at least an hour before their bedtime to encourage natural and restful sleep. A healthy, balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and calcium, as well as keeping hydrated will go a long way to making them feel at their very best ready to face their brand new school.
Talk about social media
Many social media platforms have a lower age limit of 13, but many children begin asking about joining them when they start secondary school. Before you make that decision, it is important to talk to them about how to use it appropriately, what details that they can and cannot share, and what to do if they come across any information that makes them feel uncomfortable. If you do choose to allow them to use social media, keep tabs on it and make sure that there is no bullying or inappropriate conversations happening.
Allow for some wobbles
It can take a while for a child to settle into a new school environment. While some are at home and managing to find their way around within a few days, don’t be alarmed if it takes weeks or even months for your child to settle into their secondary school. It is a huge change! There may also be plenty of wobbles along the way, once the initial excitement has faded away, and it can be frustrating for both you and them if they do not settle as quickly as you hoped. However, continued support and communication with the school if there are problems will go a long way towards making the process easier on everyone.