Transitioning from primary to high school is often an exciting and nerve wracking time for children and parents alike. High school is often a different social, academic and behavioural landscape with new expectations and challenges. Fortunately High Schools often prepare students for this in their first few weeks and make the transition easier however as a parent there are some important things you can manage at home to make the transition even smoother.

Discussing Expectations

It is important that your child knows what they might expect when they reach high school. Quite often fear and apprehension is driven by the unknown. If your child can begin to imagine what their first few weeks at high school might look like this may help with the anxiety that can accompany the transition to high school. Discussing things like ‘home rooms’ and the change in classes that occur during the day, looking at maps of the school where available and thinking about what might be different from primary to high school are all great places to start.

Social Skills

Fortunately a lot of times children get to transition from primary to high school with familiar faces. However there will still be some new children and your child’s closest friends may not be attending the same high school. To ensure that they develop some good relationships that they will maintain throughout their time at high school, discussing social skills and how to introduce yourself and start conversations is an important topic. You can even use things such as role plays, which are always fun while learning some new skills. Some topics to cover under social skills are:

  • Active listening
  • Eye contact
  • Body language
  • Showing interest in others
  • Empathy
  • Sharing and taking turns
  • Helpful and pro-social behaviours

Routine

In the weeks leading up to school starting it is important to re-introduce a routine for your child and your family. School holidays and staying up late and sleeping in are all fun things! However it will make the transition much easier if you child isn’t waking up early for the first time in 6 weeks on their first day of high school. This also goes for things such as creating a healthy eating routine, getting back in to the swing of chores and minimising screen time.

Normal worry

It is completely understandable for your child to feel worried about the first day at high school. Do you remember that feeling you had going to a new job? Nerve wracking! Although you may be confident that your child will be fine and will transition easily it is important that you validate your child’s fears as they are normal to the situation. Using a technique such as emotion coaching where you identify your child’s feeling, listening empathetically while validating their feelings and thoughts. Using problem solving can also be a helpful technique to prompt your child to anticipate any problems and prepare for these with a strong approach. Teaching some basic anxiety management strategies such as deep breathing and positive ‘coping statements’ (helpful self-talk to encourage your child when they are experiencing self-doubt) will also ease first day jitters.

Warning signs

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of the school, the child and parents, the transition to high school does not go to plan. Some warning signs that your child may need some additional help with this transition are below:

  • A lack of involvement in their new school
  • Lack of motivation or active refusal to attend school
  • A drop in normal grade level or academic performance
  • Refusal to discuss anything related to school including new friends or teachers
  • Low confidence or self-esteem – saying things such as ‘I’m dumb’ or ‘I’m stupid”

If your child shows any of these signs it might be beneficial for you to attend sessions with a Child and Adolescent Psychologist to assess their current level of functioning and provide any treatment that may be required.