Many Year 6 students start to worry about secondary school at the beginning of Term 1, and these concerns often escalate throughout their final year of primary school. Students’ concerns are often mirrored in the family, with emotions swinging from excited to unsettled, particularly when a family is going through the transition for the first time.
Some students’ fears are compounded if there is initial uncertainty over which secondary school they will be going to. When they do find out, their concern shifts to what the school will expect of them. Fear of the unknown can be very powerful and the more barriers that can be removed will allow students to embrace the new adventure and find success.
As a parent, you are no doubt wondering how best to support your child. In general, you will find that the transition is the smoothest when parents and schools (primary and secondary) work closely together to support a child’s learning and development.
It is important to remember that, as parents, it is best not to make assumptions about your child’s expectations. We have a plethora of our own memories, which can sometimes complicate what we expect our children to experience. We must remember that they have never been in this situation before. For some children, it really might feel like walking into an abyss and for others they may be full of confidence.
By reading this article I want to acknowledge that you are an engaged parent, taking the steps to assist and support your child.
Factors that contribute to a successful transition
Transition works best when the following are present:
- A supportive family environment with a focus on positive attitudes – emotional stability is really important. Students are more likely to adjust happily to the new environment, and be able to handle challenges when parents are interested in and involvement with the transition.
- The ability to adjust socially – resilience and having the skills to form new friendships are crucial to the adjustment to secondary school.
- Being able to adapt and adjust to the new institutional environment – again it is important for students to have a strong sense of resilience. Flexibility assists in adjusting quickly to new routines and school life. The more that students and parents understand of what to expect from the specific school, the easier this adjustment.
- Having an ongoing interest in the curriculum and learning – the more prepared students are to adapt to more advanced work and new subjects, the more easily students will settle in at secondary school. Students need to be challenged (and usually want to be) so they can build upon their primary school learning.
Key areas on how to support your child through the transition journey
Communication – always keep the lines of communication open. Start talking to them if you haven’t already about what going to secondary school will mean for them, and continue to support them as they grow and meet the new challenges and experiences socially and academically. Once they start, it is also important to discuss how they are feeling and regularly check in with them to see how they are coping with the increased level of work and homework.
Encourage independence – encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning which will assist your child to develop their own decision making and self-management skills. It is really important for teens to develop self-advocacy – learning to speak up for themselves and knowing how to ask for what they need.
Allow your child to struggle – as parents we all like to see our children succeed and we also have a tendency to jump in to try and solve problems and rescue our children. The greatest learning for all of us comes from mistakes and, if we want our children to succeed, we need to let them stumble now and again too. It is really important for students to take responsibility for their own learning and the decisions they make across all aspects of their education and accept the consequences for these actions both positively and negatively. For example, if they forget to take their homework, try to resist rushing it up to the school rescuing them. Instead let them deal with any consequences.
Be positive – your child is more likely to look forward to starting secondary school if you are positive about it. A student’s mindset is critical to their success. As parents, it is important to foster and increase your child’s self-belief.
Let students take responsibility for their time – assist your child to manage their time and cope with multiple new subjects and priorities, as well as their extracurricular activities. I strongly encourage all Year 7 students to use a diary/planner (paper or electronic) to assist them with their organisation, time management and tasks they need to complete. In order to manage time, children need to be able to see time and this will assist with that aspect.
Homework environment/s – ensure your child has at least one designated place where they can study, with good lighting, desk space and a good chair. I usually encourage students to have one place where they keep their school work and belongings at home. This is usually on their desk and I recommend using a magazine holder for this.
Be interested and enthusiastic – encourage your child to get involved and take on new experiences and opportunities to expand their interests and talents. It is great if you can familiarize yourselves with activities that a secondary school may offer as well as other extra curricular activities so you can encourage your child’s participation.
Stay informed and involved – whilst the level of involvement at secondary school can be very different to that of primary school, I strongly recommend that parents be involved where possible. There are various ways to do this like:
- attend parent information evenings,
- get involved in parent groups,
- attend parent teacher nights.
It is also a big change for you and many parents themselves actually struggle with this, particularly if it is their first child who is going to secondary school.
It can be useful to talk to other parents who have been through this process previously as they can often assist to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Best wishes to your child, yourself and your family for a smooth transition into secondary school and beyond. May the experience be one that sets your child on a path for success!
For more detailed information, please check out my eBooks on Taking the Leap to Secondary School – there is one for parents on how to support your child and another for children on what they need to know in order to prepare themselves for the transition journey. You can also check out the upcoming workshops I have coming up around transition in October – click here. Alternatively please get in touch via email or give me a call 0409 967 166.