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Any type of transition can prove stressful to children. Whether it be moving house or the addition of a new child to the family. But the transition from nursery to primary school or primary to secondary education can place a great deal of pressure on a child.
Not only are they being placed into an unfamiliar setting, they’re being immersed into a sea of people they have had limited or no contact with before. So as a parent, you can prepare your child for the journey by equipping them with the right skills and mentality to deal with any situation school might throw at them. Here we cover some ways in which you can get your children ready (and keen!) to get started on their next adventure.
Mastering the Nerves
Until now, your child is likely to have been surrounded by the same familiar faces their whole life. And whilst this is great for forming a supportive network that they can rely on, your child will need to start using school as a way of broadening their social horizons and pursuing their natural instinct to explore, in this case, within the primary school environment.
There are some simple ways which you can use to lessen those nerves on the first day of school! Firstly, talk to your child about how they’re feeling – give them a chance to express themselves and fill them in on what they can expect once they step through the school gates. If a child is aware of what’s going to happen during the day, they’ll feel more prepared. Secondly, involve your child in the preparation process. Buying uniforms and slipping on that first pair of school shoes can encourage feelings of excitement as opposed to apprehension.
Schools are all about routine. They keep the kids organised and help them develop a sense of confidence after mastering them. Children like to know what to expect, they thrive off structure, so it’s important to apply some form of routine to your home life before they enter school.
If your child has never known structure and routine, they’ll struggle enormously at school. So start by setting out a routine that will compliment that of the standard school day. Include a few structured activities into your schedule and start to set a specific bedtime and wake-up time, if you haven’t already. This will make your child’s transition to the school routine so much smoother.
Introduction to Responsibility
As your child grows accustomed to school life, they’ll be required to take responsibility over certain aspects of their schooling. Homework in particular is a vital part of your child’s education and it’s important you instil in them a motivation to do well and to complete the tasks assigned to them.
Helicopter parenting can be detrimental to a child’s development. By giving your child the opportunity to be responsible for something at home (e.g. making their bed in the morning) they’ll learn skills in self-motivation and self-discipline, which is crucial to succeeding in school. However, if you constantly do everything for them and plan everything little thing out – they will struggle in the long-term, because in school, it’s entirely down to them what they take from their education.
Get them Organised
Unlike primary school, which often spoon-feeds children information and provides all the resources they will need, secondary school educators expect your child to bring with them their books, stationary and homework planner every day, and those are just the bare essentials.
And, depending on the school and what subjects they take, they’ll need to remember a whole lot more than that to get through their exams. If a child doesn’t come prepared, their education will be stunted. So get them into a habit of packing their bag the night before and writing check-lists (if useful to them) of all the things they need to keep on top of.
Keep them Confident
Moving from a small school full of staff and pupils they’re familiar with, to an entirely alien-setting like high school, can be unsettling for a child of 11. And, in entering secondary school they’re about to undergo some radical changes biologically with regards to entering pubery. This in turn can undermine a childs confidence not only about starting a new school, but about themselves.
What’s more, there’s a new kind of school etiquette to consider. In primary school you can drop your kids off and pick them up after the school day. In secondary school, your children would die of shame if they saw you coming within a mile of it! So for their confidence levels, it’s important you yourself are aware of what’s “cool” at secondary school and of what changes they will be going through biologically and emotionally, so you can support them through it.
The Road to Independence
Secondary school marks a massive developmental landmark for children. It’s the stage in which they begin to grow into adults and independence is very much a part of the deal. No longer do you have to pay the price for them being late, they now get detentions. No longer can you have a chat with their teacher at the end of the day, you’ll get a phone call home if they’re acting up.
Responsibility now very much rests on the children to take control over their studies, growing as independent learners. And as parents, it’s important you reinforce this. Get your children into a habit of thinking about the work they need to do when they’re at home and reward them for any positive feedback they bring home from their teachers. Parents have a huge impact over a child’s willingness to do well in school. So if you come off an uninterested, they won’t bother either.
Transitions need not be a stressful and anxious time for a child; they can provide a great opportunity for children to flourish in both their educational and personal development. And, whilst as parents, you may not be able to be with them every step of the way – you can still be their supportive safety net at home.
The kids may be growing up too fast for your liking, but every now and then, whether they admit it or not, they still need their Mum and Dad.
If you have any comments on helping your kids’ smooth transition through school, please share your experiences in comments below.