There are plenty of blogs about the challenges your child might face when moving from primary to secondary school, so I won’t attempt to recapture all of those points, and instead I will just highlight my key top tips for parents.
Smoothing the transition to seniors is something we can all help with, although every child will need their own specific approach. One child might be anxious about the size of the school, and another about their appearance, however some techniques are universally helpful, so here are my suggestions;
1. Have a Dress Rehearsal
Build and stick to a routine from the day before school starts. Do a practice run!
Agree what time should they get up, and what they will have for breakfast, then take the bus together or cycle, find the correct school gate, and agree a location to say goodbye (if you are going with them beyond the first couple of days) and where to leave stuff like bikes/ scooters. A dress rehearsal massively decreases the anxiety of the unknown on Day 1.
2. It’s Normal to Feel Anxious
Things will be stressful for all concerned because change IS stressful. But try to remember that your emotions are not their emotions.
You won’t feel anxious about the same things, and in fact they may not be as anxious as you assume.
Enquire about how they are feeling in a measured way, don’t make assumptions, and don’t let on how stressed you are (if you are).
Try to avoid questions like “are you very worried about starting seniors?” because they may not have been up until that moment!
Ask open questions like “how are you feeling about seniors?” and offer to chat about it if they want to.
3. Be predictable
Take time every day to connect with them, have a debrief, or chat about ‘stuff’. It doesn’t have to be about school, and you may only get the response ‘fine’ if you ask ‘how was school today?’.
But having a regular time when you sit together e.g. in the car, or lie side by side on their bed at night, is helpful for them to know that there are at least 10 PREDICTABLE minutes every day, when they have your undivided attention (and a cuddle – if not driving!).
Then if things are tricky, they know they will be able to tell you -but in their own time, not necessarily when asked ‘how was school today?’.
4. And Finally!
There will be bumps in the road, friendship fractures, not being picked for teams, and multiple lost items.
Try to ‘ride the waves’ alongside them, and not to stress too much about the lost kit (it drives me mad -so I get it!) and remember that this is a huge learning curve for them, a formative and important time, and the odd lost shoe is not as important as learning to manage those relationships, disappointments, and bumps in the road.
You will strongly want to fix it all for them… try to resist and let them sort things out for themselves whilst you jog alongside them, helping them to do it, but NOT doing it for them.
It’s an exciting, challenging, and exhilarating time. Senior School will bring huge opportunities, as well as occasional difficulties.
Together, you’ve got this! Good luck.
PS If more support is needed, check out my webinars to download - they cover ADHD, Autism, Eating Issues, School Anxiety, and self-harm.