Beginning secondary school can be daunting, moving from one main teacher, one classroom, a familiar environment with routines, and a circle of familiar peers and friends, to a much more complex set-up.
Former high school teacher, parenting author and mother of four, Maggie Dent has witnessed this transition countless times and has invaluable advice for families.
“When I have asked first-time high school students what worries them most about starting school, their responses are similar,” she says. “They worry about things like getting lost, hard work, having their head flushed in a toilet, bullying, getting changed in front of other students for PE, not making friends, losing stuff, saying goodbye to fun – perceiving high school as all about marks and grades, homework, disappointing their parents, or being attacked on social media.”
Maggie suggests parents try the following:
- Talk to your kids about how change impacts everyone and that it’s normal to feel anxious and a bit scared.
- Help them get prepared – last minute rushing adds to their fragile psyche.
- Download the school map and plot where toilets are and key areas like science, English, technology, etc.
- When they get their timetable have them explain it to you and make several copies – keep one on their phone and keep a copy on the fridge.
- Set up a firm bedtime – having good sleep routines is one of the best ways to stay healthy as a growing adolescent.
- Give kids ideas on what helps their brain work best – water, good food, exercise and sound sleep are essential for learning.
- Work out technology boundaries for weekdays and weekends and put some agreements in place, including no technology or TV in the bedroom, which will help sleep and can help you stay positively connected.
- Diffuse ‘catastrophising’ from your child, especially about teachers and subjects. Keep affirming the importance of getting a good education.