Wednesday 2 March 2022

How Can You Help our Child Prepare For Secondary School?

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This week parents and children across the country anxiously awaited a letter or an email to land, letting them know which secondary school their child had been offered. If you are one of those parents, I am right there with you on how nerve wracking it is, I remember it all to well last year and it felt like a lifetime waiting for the confirmation email. The transition to secondary school feels like (and is!) a really big step, its their final step before they become adults and is where they will spend many years of their life transforming from little kids to adults. 

As a mum who has gone through the emotional rollercoaster process already myself, I am sharing some top tips below on how you can help your child prepare for secondary school (and some might even help you feel more ready too). 

Encourage Independence 

When your child starts secondary school they will be expected to have a certain amount of independence. This might include finding their own way to and from school, remembering their own books, work, homework etc and being able to work independently too. Helping your child to become more independent at home can help them understand what may be expected as well as giving your child much more confidence that they are in fact capable of doing things for themselves. '

You could start off small, asking them to do some chores such as tidying their own room or making their own lunch. Then trust them with something a little bigger like writing a shopping list for their lunches all week or packing their own bags for any clubs they may attend. You could even have practice runs of walking to school where they take the lead or packing their school bags and then checking they have remembered everything. It's important to remember that this is a stressful time for your child too so don't suddenly pile lots of independent tasks on them and expect them to get it all right. Start small and work together to allow them the freedom to gain independence in their own time. 

Get Prepared - Order Uniform Early! 

Right now it might feel as though the start of secondary school is miles away, but believe me it creeps up on you quicker than you think. And one thing you don't want to be left to do is ordering uniform and school supplies during the summer holidays. Not only because everyone wants to enjoy the summer break but also because school uniform can take weeks, even months to arrive and you do not want to be chasing missing uniform days before the start of the school year. Whether its school socks, official uniform or stationary, getting organised and ordering early will ease stress all round. 

If you are worried about sizing you can always order a size up or most uniform shops will allow you to exchange items a few weeks before the start of a term if your child suddenly has a huge growth spurt. Other items worth considering getting prepared and ordering early include school shoes, trainers, stationary and backpacks all of which will be in high demand before the start of a new term and leaving to buy until the last minute may mean limited choice and more stress. 

Be There to Listen 

With such a big move will naturally come big emotions and children can find it really difficult to open up about how they really feel. The best thing to do is reassure them that you are there to listen when/if they do want to talk and be prepared for that to be at random times such as a car journey, during a shopping trip or right before bed. Whenever it may be, ensure you are there to listen (even if it does mean a later bed time or a rerouted car journey). 

One way I found that helped my son feel he could open up was to give him options, sometimes opening up face to face can feel hard. So instead I told my son he could write me a note and leave it on my bed and then I would either write to him back or talk to him about it, he could let me know how he wanted the discussion to go. He found it much easier to write his worries and questions down initially which then opened up the conversation much easier. 

Attend any Meetings, Look Arounds or Chance to be at the School 

During the run up to your child starting their new journey at secondary school there will likely be lots of chances for both you and your child to get a feel for the school. At this point you may have already been for a look around but don't dismiss the chance to go again (and again) if you can. The more you can visit the school the more familiar it will become for your child, they will likely also get the chance to meet different teachers and members of staff too which can be very reassuring. 

Schools will always do their best to help your child settle in and so if you have any concerns don't be afraid to reach out, you will usually have the details of the transition lead who will be helping all children settle in, this will be the best person to contact. You may be able to request another look around or put forward any questions or worries your child may have. 

Create a Study Space of Their Own

One thing all kids notice about secondary school is the extra work load. After the first term it can feel like it is coming in thick and fast and homework feels never ending. But getting organised, setting up a schedule to keep on top of tasks and having a dedicated work space to get it all done can help everyone feel more organised. 

Setting up a study space doesn't have to take up lots of room, it could be a small desk, chair and organiser in a living space, bedroom or spare room. As long as there is a space your child can go to and have peace and quiet and a space to study on their own (but not so secluded they can't come and ask you for help) it will work. You can even help get your child excited about having their own space by allowing them to help pick the furniture or a few decorations and pieces of stationary to make the space fun, relaxing and their own. Once they have a study space get your child to create a homework/study timetable (once they have started school) and it will mean they can stay on top of any work that they need to do. 

I wanted to finish this post with a little bit of practical advice. Many parents and children will have a preferred choice of secondary school and it is worth noting that the school you are offered doesn't have to be the end, especially if it is a school you really dislike. There are ways to appeal a secondary school place decision and waiting lists for other schools you can add your child too. 

Good luck to all of those about the start their secondary school journey, hopefully these tips will be helpful and everything goes smoothly and calmly! If you have any tips to share that may help other parents or children please feel free to share them in the comments below. 


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