As the school holidays draw to a close we all must prepare ourselves for the reality of a brand new school year. For those who are starting high school, this time of year can stir up emotions which may range from excited to anxious or even fluctuate between the two. Even as a teacher, I feel the butterflies in my stomach as January ticks on; wondering what my new students or classes will be like, how I’ll keep up with the work load and just generally planning for routine and schedules to rule my life again. Although everyone handles this transition in different ways, there are several things parents can do to support their kids through it. According to an article from raisingchildren.net.au, “when children are making the move to secondary school, you [parents] have the biggest influence on how smooth the transition is. Your child’s friends do influence how your child feels about the move, but your support has strong and longer-lasting effects.”
Familiarise yourself with new schedules and routines
A change in routine as significant as the transition from primary school to high school can be a major cause of anxiety in some children. After 7 years of primary school, new high school students must embrace several adjustments which could include a different starting time, a new school location and complicated class schedules. Help your children to get into a new rhythm in the mornings to alleviate the stress of being late or getting lost. Familiarise yourself with their daily timetable and make it a discussion each morning about what’s on for the day. If you have access to a school map, you could even use that to assist your child in planning out where they will need to physically move around throughout the day. I still have nightmares about losing track of my school schedule or getting lost in the labyrinth that was my high school. For me personally, reviewing the following day’s schedule the night before was always useful and even helped to settle my mind for a peaceful sleep.
Identify Clubs and teams
My sister in law is a high school teacher and she tells me that the children who transition most successfully as those who find a club or an interest group or team to join at the start of their high school career. Discuss what your children’s interests or strengths are before the year begins and help them get to excited for the opportunity to explore these areas further at their new school. This is also an excellent way to make new, like-minded friends. If your child is shy like I was though, encourage them to ask their friends which clubs they will join and suggest they jump on one of those band wagons! I was terribly shy in school and found even the concept of joining a club so far out of my comfort zone. I used to watch the drama club perform lunchtime plays and wish I had their confidence. If I had only taken the plunge and got involved, even in backstage duties, I know there would have been a whole new world of friendships and enriching experiences to be had. I know this now because I finally did work up the courage to join a rowing team at university and it transformed my confidence, social life and overall experience at uni.
With high school comes increased homework and possibly more out of class commitments (especially if your child ends up joining a club or team!). Most children will need support in managing their time and staying on top of everything. Help them to schedule in 30-60 mins per night for homework. Even if there isn’t 60 minutes worth of work to do, encourage the same timing each night (ie. just before or just after dinner) and suggest filling any spare time with reading. This will help to build strong study habits and self-discipline which will certainly come in handy later in their high school career. At the same time, it is important to schedule down time in when kids first get home to give them some space to relax and process the day a bit.
Don’t underestimate the positive influence you can have as a supportive parent. Hopefully these tips help you to get your child’s high school career started well. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out the article mentioned earlier on raisingchildren.net.au or another excellent article from theconversation.com.
Lauren is the owner of MPT, a primary school teacher, tutor and Mum to a nearly 2 year old son.