Moving from primary to secondary school can be a time of great excitement, but it can also be a time of worry and apprehension. Pupils go from being the most senior in their primary school to the most junior members of their secondary school. The early weeks of school are exhausting and in the first months many complain of being tired all the time.
Another huge challenge many children find daunting is making new friends. Even children who are lucky enough to transfer to secondary school with former school pals can feel anxious about fitting in. The vast majority however make a very successful transition in a short time. The following are some pointers for parents in assisting their child with the transition.
One of the most confusing aspects of first year is the weekly timetable. Although tutors will go through this, it is a good idea to ask them to explain it to you. You should encourage your child to transfer a copy into his homework diary, place a copy on the wall beside the desk at home where he does his homework, and take a picture of it for back up. Students will be anxious to try to know all the information contained in the timetable at once. This is an impossible task. Remind him that he can look at a copy of the timetable in his homework diary at the end of each class to remind him what subject he has next. If students have to move to different rooms for each subject, it could be an idea to pair up with another student if possible for the first month.
On a practical level, prepare yourself and your child for the start of secondary school by making sure he is getting enough sleep which makes a big difference and eating well. Learning to be organised is a key skill. Start the homework as early as possible after school and train him to look at his timetable for the next day. Check his homework diaries every evening. This is the easiest form of communication with what is going on in school. Get him into the habit of doing the homework on the night it is given. It is also advisable to put up a little reminder on the wall/fridge: Monday, PE gear; Tuesday, woodwork; etc, so he does not forget things.
Study skills is another key skill. Some students opt to do their homework in the order it was given, others follow the timetable for the next day. It is a good habit to encourage your child to get all her books, copies, and any other equipment ready for the next day just after she has finished her homework. Her bags will probably be very heavy so talk to her about organising her locker at the breaks and being on time for classes.
Teenagers may find it more difficult to let you know how they are getting on, so it is important to tune into how you think they might be feeling. Showing a genuine interest in their opinions about their new school, teachers and their fellow pupils is important. It is a good idea to get them talking about their worries or concerns. Remind them to ask for help and to talk to someone they trust like their tutor or guidance counsellor if they have difficulties in school. If you have an ongoing concern, you can always ask to speak to their year-head.
Social media can have a huge impact and parents need to be aware of the various platforms their child is using. A lot of parents turn off the WiFi thinking they are covered, while students continue to have access through their mobile data. A good rule is, no phones or devices in the rooms at night. It affects their sleep and can leave them susceptible to online bullying.
As moving schools can be a stressful time, don’t be surprised if children lose their temper or get irritable more often; they are also trying to navigate puberty. Remember to keep your mind on the bigger picture of supporting your child through these changes and be patient but firm. Teenagers are resilient and before long they will adapt and hopefully flourish in their new surroundings.