How to help your children flourish in secondary school
Advice for parents from an educational psychologist on managing the transition
As September dawns, and a new cohort of pupils prepare for life in secondary school, adjusting to the change can prove both exciting and challenging for both children and parents.
While secondary school opens up many new opportunities for children, it also represents a huge time of change for parents and caregivers as well as children.
To help manage this transition, we have provided some bite sized guidance from our expert members, helping children to cope with, and thrive in, their new school environment.
“The transition to a new phase of education brings many changes, including new routines and ways of learning, working with more teachers and changes in expectations, and new friendships. This can be an exciting, but also a daunting, time for children,” says Dr Sarah Chestnutt, educational psychologist and member of our Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP).
“Despite the challenges, many children flourish in their new environment, and parents and carers can play an important role in preparing their child for their new school,” she adds.
Dr Chestnutt has given some tips for caregivers to help this process:
If your child’s new school has provided information as part of their transition, find time to talk through this with them more than once to help familiarise them with the new environment.
Alternatively, looking through the school website, or watching videos which the school have created, can be helpful.
Make a practice journey from home to school to help your child become used to the route they will take (whether this is with you, independently, or with friends). You could use this opportunity to remind them of how they can keep safe, and what they might do if they need help.
Plan what your new routine will look like once your child starts school. If your child likes to see a routine visually, work together to create a visual timetable of the morning before school and returning from school in the afternoon. This will help them understand what will be happening and make things feel more predictable for them.
Allow your child time to talk about what they are looking forward to about starting the new school, such as opportunities to study different subjects, meeting new friends and developing existing friendships. Give them space to share any worries they might have with you, talking through together ways of managing their concerns. It’s usually best to do this during the day rather than right before bedtime.
Feeling worried or apprehensive about your child starting secondary school is very normal for parents and carers too. It’s important to support your own wellbeing and use strategies to help reduce your anxiety. For example, why not make a list of what you need to do before term starts, and break tasks into smaller chunks to help them feel more manageable? Take time for yourself by doing something you enjoy, like having a bath, reading a book or going for a short walk.