Managing a smooth transition to secondary school
The transition from Primary to Secondary School is one of the most significant milestones of your child’s schooling. Gippsland Grammar Principal David Baker shares his top five tips to ensure the move to Secondary School is as smooth as possible for your child and your family.
1. Be the beacon of stability in their changing world
The move to Secondary School also coincides with your child becoming a teenager and this can mean families are often dealing with more than simply the challenge of starting Year 7. An increased desire for independence, changing friendship groups and a thunderstorm of hormones can all contribute to your child feeling more anxious and stressed than you may be used to, and that’s even before they have to learn how to tie a tie, wear a blazer or adhere to a more demanding homework timetable than they had in Year 6. Principal David Baker says in the epicentre of these swirling changes and emotions, your child will be looking to you for stability and guidance – whether they realise it or not.
“Starting Secondary School is one of the most challenging milestones of your child’s schooling years,” Mr Baker says. “We know and understand your child will be stepping into the unknown, at the same time they are also experiencing many changes with their bodies and with their emotions. Try to keep things at home as stable as possible: this is not the time to move house, to take them out of school for a holiday or to disrupt their routine. Let them settle in, find their feet and know that they can come to you for support or guidance. Though this transition may feel rocky, it won’t take your child long to find their feet and life will return to a new normal.”
2. Teach them how to be resilient
Be supportive but also let your child know that it’s OK to step outside their comfort zone. If they feel disheartened about finding their way around a new campus, remembering where their locker is or making new friends, ask them to add a ‘yet’ to the end of their sentences: I can’t do this, yet.
“Remember you can’t learn unless you make mistakes and that’s important,” Mr Baker explains. “Not understanding something is a normal part of the learning process and your child needs to develop problem solving skills to work through difficulties, both now and in the future.”
3. Help navigate the friendship maze
Starting a new school will inevitably mean your child’s friendship group will experience a bit of a shake-up. Some of their peers will join them at Secondary School but others may take a different path, while new faces will join them and will remain by their side for the next six years. Though it can be challenging at first, meeting new people is one of the great joys of Secondary School and in many cases, these new faces will end up becoming lifelong friends.
“Your child will inevitably experience friendship problems at some stage during their school years, and as parents we always want to solve their problems for them,” Mr Baker says. “But we don’t have a magic friendship wand. What you can do is support them, coach them, listen to them and encourage them to be kind and to find solutions. If you think your child needs some extra support, don’t hesitate in letting the school know and your child’s teachers will keep an eye on them, both in the classroom and during lunchtimes and recess.”
4. Stay connected
Our increasing reliance on technology is one of the most daunting challenges for parents in the 21st century with children being more connected than ever before. While it can be difficult to force your child to put their screens away, it’s important to give them a reason to do so.
“My second child is not the world’s best communicator, so I have to look for ways to encourage communication and discussion with them,” Mr Baker says. “I’ve found that, for us, the most effective strategies have been long drives in the country with them in the front seat … without headphones! But set your own rules with regard to technology such as no internet in bedrooms, some technology-free time each day or no phones during dinner time. The teenage years are fraught with speedbumps, U-turns and dead ends but the one thing that will get you through is communication. So take some time to ensure you keep the lines of communication open.”
5. Maintain family time
This is an important strategy for every family, not just those with a child transitioning into Secondary School. However, it is during these times of change and of high stress that a stable family routine and regular family interactions and traditions will come to the fore.
“Try to have as many family dinners as possible,” Mr Baker says. “Set the table, sit down together and have a discussion. Play games. Board games. And love your children no matter what.”
Gippsland Grammar Principal David Baker is always available to chat to prospective and current families about the transition from Primary into Secondary School. He can be contacted on 03 5143 6388 or at email@example.com