Transitioning To High School – Jennifer Oaten
It is that time of the year when I discuss a topic that deeply connects with every parent who is preparing their child for the transition to high school. As I strive to provide fresh perspectives, I continue to include essential tips that will help you navigate this journey.
The jump to high school is an exhilarating and challenging phase in a teenager’s life. With a multitude of changes, responsibilities and growth opportunities, it can take time to adjust, especially if you are moving from a small country town or primary school. I still remember how I felt on my first day at Santa Maria College, having come from Margaret River Primary School.
My first few weeks as a Year 8 boarder were a bit of a blur. There were so many new things to take in: the size of the school, the number of students, the different buildings and classrooms, and the new subjects. I was also trying to make new friends while keeping track of what books and materials I needed for each subject. It was all a bit overwhelming!
But slowly and surely, I started to settle in. I made some great friends and learned the ins and outs of high school life. I still had my ups and downs – there were days when I missed my old primary school friends and felt homesick – but overall, I loved high school.
If your child seems unhappy in the first weeks, which may happen, it is important to listen to understand while keeping your own emotions in check. Understanding why they are unhappy and helping them come up with their own solutions is one of the best things you can do. If your response is positive, calm, and reassuring, your child will likely settle, given some time.
The importance of new friends
Making friends takes time but is key for a smooth transition to high school. In addition to the work your school will be doing to encourage connections between students, the following suggestions may also help.
Initiate a discussion with your child about the following:
- The ever-evolving nature of friendships in high school: With many new opportunities for forming friendships, it’s important to communicate to your child that it takes time to build these new relationships.
- Maintaining connections with old friends: This can provide a sense of social continuity for your child. Encourage them to diversify their friendship group instead of relying solely on one close friend.
- Mastering the art of introduction and conversation: Depending on your child’s personality and social skills, they might need more guidance. Encourage them to take the initiative, step out of their comfort zone, and say “hello”. Chances are, others might be feeling just as anxious. Arm them with a couple of questions to ask a new connection.
- Befriending individuals rather than groups: It is often easier to initiate a conversation in a one-on-one setting, such as in class or on the bus, rather than approaching a large group.
- Developing active listening skills: Teach your child the importance of asking questions, showing genuine interest, maintaining eye contact, and being friendly.
- Seeking out new opportunities: Encourage your child to participate in co-curricular activities like music or sports, where they can connect with peers who share similar interests.
Here are my top 10 tips
1. Ensuring a good night’s sleep. Sleep can help children succeed at school and be better able to handle whatever comes their way during the day – both the good and the bad. Transitioning to high school uses a lot of emotional energy, and things always seem much worse when they are tired. Ensure quality sleep by removing all devices from bedrooms. Reading is also strongly encouraged before bedtime.
2. Fostering a positive attitude in your child. This can help them see the good in themselves, others, and their school experiences. High school is new and different from primary school but has great benefits. Asking them “what was the best thing you did today” can focus on the positive rather than the challenges. There will be different emotions; they could be excited, nervous, or even worried, and all are completely normal.
3. Encouraging small achievements. Be it their first day of finding all classes, going to the café for the first time, packing everything needed for Physical Education (PE), attending their first music lesson, catching the bus or making a new friend. Doing this will reinforce positive behaviours and give them the confidence to continue succeeding and overcoming new challenges. Look for the small wins or positives.
4. Allowing your child to be independent and make her own decisions. Be there for support and advice, but don’t try to do everything for them. This will help build strength, courage, and resilience in our students. Learning to problem solve for themself is one of the greatest skills a parent can develop in their child. Conversations about what they will do are most beneficial.
5. Ensuring your child is organised can help them feel more in control. Make sure your child packs their bags and has their uniforms ready, especially sports uniforms, the night before. A student planner is important for keeping track of activities, homework and assessments. Help your child understand how to use it effectively and ensure you are aware of all school communications.
6. Promoting good study habits and routines at home helps children transition well. Setting up a quiet, dedicated space for homework is really important. Parents can also set specific times each day or week for focused studying and be open to talking about learning – listening more than talking! Talk about what you did to help you understand and learn information. Knowing how to study is as important as what to study. Ask questions about what they are learning.
7. Ensure your child takes on only a few activities in the first term. Make a plan for homework, co-curricular, and sport. Your child must have some downtime during the transition period.
8. Avoid giving access to social media. There are many new things to deal with in high school, and the longer you can limit social media use, the better. This adds another layer of complexity, which is not needed. At least wait until they are well settled and have firm boundaries around use.
9. Plan for unexpected events with your child.
Such as what to do or say if they:
- Get lost and arrive 10 minutes late for class.
- Arrive at their Maths class and realise they have brought the wrong book.
- Get off the train and realise they have left their sports bag on the train.
- Leave their Science book at school and need it to do their homework.
- Are trying to complete their English homework but are unsure what to do.
- Does not understand what the Maths teacher is saying about how to solve a problem.
- Have sport before school and forget school shoes.
- Are not sure what to wear for an excursion or the swimming carnival.
- Are still waiting to be picked up, and all the other students have gone.
- Are unwell and have missed school for two days and are unsure what work to do.
10. Accept that there will be good days and bad days. It takes time to transition to high school. Talk to the Homeroom Teacher or Dean if the problem persists. They may have some advice about what has worked for other students in similar situations. You can also talk to other parents who have gone through something similar with their own children.
Transitioning to high school is a significant milestone in every child’s life. It can bring about mixed emotions – excitement, nervousness, and even a bit of apprehension. Remember, as parents, your role is pivotal in facilitating this transition. From ensuring your child gets adequate sleep to fostering a positive attitude, encouraging small achievements, and promoting independence, your support can make a world of difference. It is essential to be patient, understanding, and reassuring during this transitional phase.
In time, your child will settle into their new environment, embrace the journey of high school and build memories that will last a lifetime.