Tips to help your child transition to secondary school

A teenager during a counselling session.

In this blog, we explore a range of things that you can do to support the child in your care to make a successful transition to secondary school, and to help prepare kids for the changes to come. With tips for starting year 7 and their journey into secondary education, there are plenty of things that parents can do to help their child start on the right foot on their first day at secondary school.  

Transitioning to secondary school

‘The transition to secondary school can be an exciting time for children and marks a new phase in their lives,’ says Debbie Pattinson, Digital Counselling Manager for Spurgeons. ‘As with any change this transition can bring uncertainty. Whilst most children manage this transition really well, for others it can bring out feelings of anxiety, stress and nervousness’. 

The role of parental support in primary to secondary transition

As the people best placed to support children, parents have an important role to play in supporting their child’s transition to secondary school. Parents are most likely to be the ones who listen to a child’s fears and anxieties. You can also use the summer holidays as a time to undertake activities that can help ready them.

Whether your child is excited about their new journey, or find it a little daunting, there are plenty of things that parents can do to make the transition into secondary school a positive experience for their children.  

Suggested strategies to support and prepare kids

  • Talk and listen

As a caregiver, you can assist your child through this transition period by encouraging them to talk about their feelings about their new school. ‘Discuss with your child what aspects they may be looking forward to and ask them if there is anything that they may be worried about,’ suggests Debbie.

  • Get to know the uniform

Purchase the uniform as early as you can and encourage them to try it on during the holidays. For some, regularly trying the uniform on can help them become more used to it.

Children together demonstrating a successful transition to secondary school successfully.
  • The journey

Practise the journey to school route together, especially if they’re getting the bus or train. Familiarity with the route can help them feel more at ease.

  • Knowledge is key

‘It can be helpful to assist your child to explore their new school. Have a look at the school’s website and encourage them to participate in any induction days,’ says Debbie.

  • A sense of independence

‘Empower your child by supporting them to take steps towards their independence by encouraging them to take on small responsibilities at home, suggests Debbie. ‘This will help to build their confidence. Praise them loads and notice all the things that they are doing well.’

  • Support

Ultimately, the greatest source of strength for any child going through change is knowing that they can fall back on a parent or carers love and support. ‘By providing your child with stability and security it will give them the confidence to explore and test their new school and seek out new experiences,’ adds Debbie.

  • Communication 

Before your child starts their journey into secondary education, make sure to communicate your child’s needs with the school. Check that their primary school has shared any key information needed to support your child and cater to their specific needs if necessary.

  • Speak up

If you’re unsure about how the school will handle aspects of the transition, or how your child will cope, don’t be afraid to contact the school, and say what you’re concerned about. It’s likely that they can help with any concerns and can put your mind at rest.

  • Clubs

Encourage your child to join clubs at their new school. Secondary schools usually offer a wide variety of clubs and activities, which not only help kids find new interests but vitally, they introduce them to new like-minded friends. It’s also a positive way to spend their free time at school, gain new skills and build confidence.

A happy group of young people sitting together on the grass, demonstrating a child's ability to adapt to secondary school transition.

What do secondary schools do to help children transition?

Many secondary schools request knowledge of the children from the primary school teachers.

On top of getting to know their new students, some of the ways that secondary schools aid transition include:

  • primary school visits
  • induction days
  • new entrants evenings, where pupils meet their tutor group, and head of year.

Schools may also offer a ‘buddy program’, in which new students are matched up with an older pupil. This can help as it can comfort new children to know someone in the older years, as well as gaining a feeling of belonging and familiarity with the wider school.

In cases of major worry or fear, you may wish to ask your child’s school about whether particularly anxious children can be placed with another child they know and are comfortable with. It’s possible, however, that the school may take the view that encouraging kids to make new friends from the start helps widen their friendship group and overcome anxiety.

If your child feels anxious throughout the final week of the holiday, why not try some mindfulness techniques to create a sense of calm? Our box breathing animation is a useful tool to use in the build-up to starting at secondary school, and throughout. 

Learn more about our Children’s Counselling services

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