7 Ways to Help Your Child Transition from Primary to Secondary School

Going from primary to secondary school is a time of mixed emotions for you and your child. However, there are ways you can help to make the transition easier.

Transitioning from primary to secondary school can be a time of excitement and anxiety for both children and parents. New surroundings, new friends, new challenges, and new choices are all on offer as your child opens the door on the first days of school.

So, how can you help prepare them for the first day - and the years to follow - and make the transition easier for both of you?

Five Key Elements of a Positive Transition

Research by students at Oxford University found that there were five key elements, in the eyes of a child, which constitute a positive transition:

  1. They are able to developnew friendships and improve their self-esteem and confidence.
  2. They settle into school life in a way that causes no concerns to their parents.
  3. They show an increased interestin school and schoolwork.
  4. They get used to their new routinesand school organisation with great ease.
  5. They experience curriculum continuity.

These may sound basic, but there isn't a simple, 'one size fits all' way to transition into a new environment. Every child is different: academically, emotionally, and socially.

Here are 7 top tips for helping to make the transition from primary to secondary school a little easier for both you and your child.

  1. Visit the School in Advance

It's up to you to insist that you both attend orientation events. Even just visiting the school and getting a good idea of the lay of the land can help put your child at ease on the first day.

Children who are anxious about moving to a new school may not be the first to say they want to visit, so it can help if you are the one to suggest and organise it. Attending open days or an orientation evening for all your child's possible options can help both of you come to grips with what is expected in the next year.

  1. Maintaining Friendships and Making New Friends

Your child may have gone through primary school with the same group of children, which is brilliant as they will have built up many friendships. However, the idea of making new friends can be daunting. Your child might be lucky enough to have their classmates join them at secondary school, but in most cases, they will only know a handful of children at most.

You can help prepare your child by finding out who in your local area will be attending the same school and introducing yourselves beforehand. Local Facebook groups are a great way to do this. Open days and orientation evenings are also a brilliant opportunity to meet other parents and children who will be in the same situation as you.

Once at school, joining extracurricular sports or clubs is another way for your child to make friends with people who have similar interests. Just make sure that adding an extra activity doesn't impact negatively on their homework.

  1. Schedules and Independence

At primary school, schedules are usually dictated to your child by a teacher, but when they move to secondary school, schedules will vary from day to day. They will have classes with different children and teachers, and they will need to be responsible for their own homework schedule.

We suggest that, in the year leading up to the transition, you offer your child more opportunities to vary their schedules and be in control of planning. It can give you a chance to step back and see how well they manage while you are still able to help in a more hands-on way.

  1. Homework and Time Management

Your child will have to learn to manage their own time and homework schedule. Assignments are no longer issued one day and due the next. They will have varying deadlines, and teachers in different disciplines will not necessarily think about homework in other subjects when they assign their own.

If your child is struggling to cope, see if you can help them put together a study rota. If the tasks become too much altogether, see if there is someone at the school you can speak to for advice.

It's important for your child to understand that homework levels will increase at secondary school, so there may be less time for social activities. We suggest keeping the extras to a minimum for the first part of the year until your child adjusts, and then adding activities until you find the right balance.

  1. Setting Boundaries

With secondary school comes more responsibility and, in many cases, greater independence. Your child may walk to school alone or want to meet up with their new friends.

Rather than waiting for a row to happen, why not sit down with your child and decide on the ground rules; think curfews, parties, and dating. It's worth asking their opinion first, as they might already have very realistic expectations. If you have wildly different views, it's better to get them out in the open and discuss them, rather than slamming doors and stomping feet on the night of a big social event.

As a parent, you must remember that your child is growing up and they aren't the same little baby they used to be. You need to be able to give them space to spread their wings whilst also keeping them safe. Before you sit down to discuss, think about what you and your partner expect and where you might be willing to compromise.

Letting them speak first will also give them a sense that you are willing to listen to what they have to say; it's also key that when you disagree you have reason to back up why you believe you are acting in their best interest. Model good, positive problem solving as confrontation can result in stalemate.

  1. Mobile Phones

Mobile phones might not have been around when you were a child at secondary school, but there are benefits to your child having one. Just make sure you know the school rules about mobiles as each school has their own policy.

Set the ground rules for usage and who is paying the bill so that you don't get any nasty surprises, but also let your child know that in an emergency you'll always be at the other end of the line. For the first few days make sure you are available if they call and send them an encouraging text or two. Don't bombard them with messages or call them - they should be in class - but be supportive and remind them you're there if they need you.

Remind your child that a phone should not be used in lessons, and that they should keep it in their bag when they are taking public transport.

  1. Information and Communication

Get to grips with the curriculum as much as you can. We know it can seem like a long way off but familiarise yourself with the requirements for completing school successfully. Knowing the process means you can keep an eye on progress, and if things are going off track, you'll know.

Find out if the school has a website where dates and events are listed. Check this regularly, as information will not always be forthcoming from your child. It will also help you to establish term dates, holidays, exam periods, and so on.

Keep the lines of communication open with your child's teachers. Don't expect them to know as much about your child as their primary school teacher did - they don't spend as much time with them.