Helping children settle in at secondary school
As adults, it is easy for us to rationalise the scary move to a new school in context of our experience and say ‘it will all work out in the end’. However, for the child it is massive change so we need to be careful not to trivialise it. It can be a very stressful time and to help we need to recognise that.
Imagine if you were:
- Starting a new job with a lot more responsibility and longer hours.
- Your new job has different duties that you have not done before in a new workplace that is so huge you actually fear getting lost.
- Nothing in the new job is anything like the old one and you have no friends.
- Oh, and let’s not forget that your friends have heard that some of the older workers in your new workplace will put your head down the toilet and steal your money.
- For a child moving to secondary education not only is all this happening in their world but they are trying to deal with it with a variable emotional maturity level, a wild and often over active imagination and, horror of horrors, potentially the early stages of puberty.
What can you do to help in this situation for the first month or so?
- Practice the route to school and include ‘getting lost’ strategies such as spotting landmarks and the names of major roads.
- Focus on and discuss the positives such as trips and sports events.
- Hand over some responsibility by asking them to create their own uniform list or get a little ahead in new subjects. This will generate some ownership of their new life.
- Listen, discuss and reassure, not just about the big things such as travel and lesson content but the small things as well. For an already worried 11-year-old realising they don’t know the right way to do their tie can be a huge issue.
We know that this stress will pass in a few weeks but that is forever for a child. Empathy and positive attitude to the school will go a long way to helping your child settle in. Of course, if you find they don’t then you need to speak to the school but remember kids need time to adjust.