At this time of year, I work with many parents and children aboard the magical mystery bus that is heading for big school. They’ve swapped familiar faces and favourite teachers for bigger buildings and even bigger children.
Secondary school is a symbolic step towards adulthood and autonomy – the process of leaving childhood behind can be overwhelming for both children and their families.
If your child is making the transition from primary to secondary, this September,
it’s important to be aware of the impact this can have on you and your family. For some, it can be an exciting and enriching change, but for others a difficult and uncertain period.
The signs of a successful transition
There are a few tell-tale signs that will help you gauge how well your child is settling into their new school.
Making new friends and showing an interest in work will indicate a settled start to their new school life, this, in turn, will raise their self-esteem and boost their confidence.
Easing into a daily routine with little drama would also suggest a smooth transition and will bring continuity to your child’s learning.
Feeling comfortable in their environment and support with lessons or homework are essential, as are a general relaxing of normal school rules within the early weeks. Children are more likely to relax into their new environment if they receive the right level of help and support from the school.
Trying to gauge your child’s understanding of the points above isn’t easy. On one hand it’s important not to smother them, enabling them to find their feet, but nevertheless, asking them how they feel things are going will give you an insight into their transition and also the school’s approach to supporting them.
But there are things you can do to help your child, and things you can think about that will help your child adjust.
Start by helping them build confidence. Settling in well is all about self-esteem. The more confident your child is, the easier they’ll find it to make new friends, and the less likely they are to be influenced by others and led astray. By simply paying them daily compliments it will help develop confidence that will manifest at school.
Give them an opportunity to express their fears. Your child is probably anxious and worried their fears aren’t valid. Talk through how they can overcome their fears in the event they become reality.
Make sure they have emergency money and credit on their mobile phone – if it’s allowed in school
Gently encourage them to join lunchtime or after-school clubs – a great way to make friends.
Practise the route to school beforehand. It’s important to discuss potential scenarios, eg. if they miss the school bus, what they will do? Or you’re running late and won’t be at home, where can they wait?
Get up earlier during the last week of the holidays so that early starts for school aren’t a shock to the system.
Think about any changes you might need to make at home so they have the time, space and energy for homework: what hours can they watch TV; what time is dinner; when does homework begin? Check-in with the school to see if they have any suggestions
In the early days you should check their homework diary daily and, if it looks empty, check with other parents or the school. Your child may simply forget to write it down.
Finally, allow a good few weeks to settle in. It’s important to know who to contact for any situation, and the school’s preferred means of contact. A few simple steps can really help your child hit the ground running and have a happy year 7.