Starting secondary or high school is one of life’s rites of passage. Many children find it stressful, and there is a huge amount to take in – different teachers for different lessons, larger and more impersonal schools, and substantial homework. Even if your child goes to a local school where some of their friends are also going, there are going to be a lot of new faces in the class, and your child will have to try and fit into the new order. There are a number of things a parent can do to help. Making sure your child is not tired, and has had a good night’s sleep is an obvious one, but others might include taking the time to listen to their feelings about starting school, or simply talking about the changes that are coming up. Practicing the route to school before term starts is useful. Try not to press the view of your own education, good or bad, onto your child. It is likely that their experience will be mixed, and they should be able to make up their own mind.
Once at school, children often find it difficult to deal with the extra organisation that is required. You can help by making sure bags are packed and uniform laid out the night before. We all want our children to be independent, but a little help in the first few weeks might make the transition easier. Your child has so many new routines to get used to that I always recommend being a bit more relaxed about home chores for the first term. You can provide a calm, loving sanctuary, so your child feels secure and supported, and can face the challenges of a new school.
In terms of academic work, there is a well-documented trend for children to fall behind in their learning over the summer holidays. To help your child start their high school education ready to learn, you can help them with some work over the summer beforehand. I really don’t mean working through endless maths sheets, and making your child dread school. What might be more appropriate is stimulating your child’s enthusiasm for learning by getting them some exciting new books out of the library, making a giant model with them, or perhaps a visit to a museum of your child’s choice.