This year my middle son is making the leap up from primary to join his big brother in secondary school – he’s gregarious boy and I hadn’t really given a thought to the move.
Certainly, when his more cautious brother moved up three years ago, we worked very hard at making feel confident and easing the transition.
Perhaps, because high school is now a familiar part of our family’s landscape, I imagined my 12-year-old would be relaxed about it all.
However, I was wrong. He had spent an unusually quiet and thoughtful couple of days, and eventually he admitted that high school was making him “feel a bit weird”. This brought me up short – it was unfair to assume that because I was comfortable with being a high-school pupil’s mum, he wasn’t quite at ease with being a high school pupil.
So I’ve put together some tips to remind myself of the things I can do to help my son over the next few months.
Don’t forget that even the confident seeming children can be nervous. My son was hiding it well, but he was still apprehensive about going to secondary school. I think he felt under pressure to be cool because, after all anything his big brother can do, he can do better, right?
Talk it over. Find out what’s going through your child’s mind. Are they worried about something in particular or just nervous because of the big change looming?
Discuss bullies. One of the biggest fears many children hold is the idea that secondary school is full of dark corners where bullies lurk waiting to pounce. While it’s true there are bullies everywhere, more often than not, the horror stories about high school are nothing more than tall tales. But do remind your child that they should tell someone if they are getting picked on.
It’s not personal. While many of the terrifying tales of bad-guy bullies are not true, it’s possible that as the smallest people in the school again you might get the feeling that the bigger ones don’t like you. Don’t take it to heart, it may well be a bit cool for some people to look down their noses at first years. Don’t pay any attention.
Talk about making friends. Even if your child might be lucky enough to be going to secondary school with a pack of primary school pals it will still be important to make new friends as soon as you can. Remind them that everyone will be feeling a little shy and awkward so a warm smile and a hello will go a long way. Ask a few questions, starting with the other person’s name, and you’re already halfway to being mates.
Try it out. Have a trial run of the journey to school, the packing of the bag and the wearing of the uniform. If you know you’re going to get to school on time and which route to take that’s one less thing to worry about.
Make a homework plan, but don’t worry. Some youngsters get anxious at the fearfully large amounts of homework they think they’ll have to do at high school. It will help them to talk about it, work out where this will get done and when, and to keep calm. Trust the teachers won’t give them more than they can cope with, and the best idea is to do it on the night it’s handed out.
Be around. Try to give your child a bit more time in the run up to the first day of school and the first couple of weeks after. They might need you just to be there more than you imagine.
Make the most of it. School days can be wonderful if you relax and enjoy what’s going on. See what clubs and activities are on offer, and try things out.
And remember, we all survived it and so will they. Everyone is going through the same experience and feeling the same concerns, but in a week or so it’ll feel like they’ve been high school pupils forever and can hardly remember what the fuss is about.