Starting primary school, transitioning to high school or changing schools entirely are really big occasions for your child.
But the good news is that with planning and support from the important adults in their life, those transitions can be managed really well by most students.
Here’s what parenting and education experts say are the best ways to encourage and prepare our children for those big transition milestones.
“People may think preparing for Prep is about reading and writing, and knowing colours and numbers but our focus is on so much more,” says Matthew Flinders Anglican College’s Head of Junior Primary Chris Curtain.
“We encourage parents to teach their children how to listen, express needs, concentrate, try new ways of doing things and be a good friend.
“These are very important skills to have when starting Prep. Children who start with these skills are ready for learning and can thrive in their first year at school.”
Ms Curtain recommends parents continue to focus on the following five activities to give their child the best start at school:
- Read and talk to your child
- Help them recognise their (written name)
- Encourage independence
- Practice listening skills and following directions
- Get them used to waiting and taking turns
(Read more about each activity and the reasons behind it in our extended interview with Ms Curtain.)
Parenting educator Maggie Dent agrees helping your pre-prep child master “some of the basic skills needed to manage themselves” is important.
She also urges parents to avoid comparing their child to other classmates and to remember as parents you will still be their number one teacher and coach.
“They are all unique…and growth and development, together with learning is not a linear thing,” Ms Dent writes in her blog post Getting little ones ready for big school.
“It kind of happens in fits and starts [so] relax and allow Mother Nature to do what she has been doing since time began.
“The number one thing that helps children to thrive and flourish is to be strongly attached and bonded to people who love them unconditionally and ferociously no matter what.”
Becoming a high schooler
Excitement and fear of change are competing emotions for most children facing the start of secondary school.
And there is a fair deal of change to contend with: new buildings, new routines and uniforms and transitioning to multiple teachers and classes. On top of that, the need to ‘start all over again’ in terms of achievement and reputation can be a big source of anxiety.
“Through your nurturing role as a parent, you will know best how your child responds to change,” write the authors of Nurturing your child through Transition.
“You will have seen it through their transitions beyond the family, perhaps into day-care and/or pre-school and primary school, and through the inevitable changes of routine that take place in most families.
“Starting high school is a significant event for all children and so understanding their disposition and putting in place good planning are key to making the transition as smooth as possible.”
Finding their place
Teen/tween champion Rebecca Sparrow urges students to “find their tribe”, avoid gossip and to get involved in the school community as some of the secrets to a good high school experience in her blog post A letter to my niece before she starts high school.
“There is not much you can control in your life when you’re a tween or a teen,” Rebecca writes, but the one thing – and possibly the MOST IMPORTANT thing – which you *can* control is WHO YOU CHOOSE TO HANG AROUND. Find your tribe. Your tribe are those people who get you. Who share your core values. They like you for who you are and they’ve got your back.”
Listen to their worries
Raising Children Network also offers practical tips for parents of new high school students in their article ‘Starting secondary school’.
“Here are some ideas to deal with mixed feelings and worries:
- Talk with your child about what they are most looking forward to and what they are worried about. Really listen when your child shares their feelings and worries about secondary school. Reassure the that it’s normal to worry about going to secondary school.
- Encourage your child to look at the positive side of the move to secondary school. For example, you could highlight the new opportunities your child will have by talking about extracurricular activities your child could choose at the new school.
- Talk with your child about friendships. For example, you could ask what your child’s friends are saying about secondary school. You could also talk about how your child might keep in touch with old friends and make new friends at high school.”
Advice for parents of children changing schools can be found in these resources: