The transition from primary to secondary school – supporting children

Parent helping with homework 810 x 430 Blog Popup | The transition from primary to secondary school - supporting children
By Toby Lester | 10th October 2019 | 5 min read

Right the way through Year 6, and into year 7 and beyond, you'll have to make lots of decisions that will shape your child's life. The things you worry about as a parent of a child in primary school become quite different once your child goes to secondary. Their friends, behaviour, academic results and more depend upon what you both do this year, so it can be a stressful time for them, but also for you, as their parent. Working together with your child’s school to communicate well and become actively involved in your child’s school life will give confidence to the whole family.

Handling Change

Some children settle in to secondary school easily whilst others find it difficult.

Handling change, no matter how old you are, is often difficult as it takes you out of your comfort zone. It takes your children away from familiar places, teachers, friends, buildings, school runs and routines. So, it can be scary but also exciting!

I remember recording my MP3 download, ‘Making The Big Leap To Secondary School’, exactly because my daughter Molly was going through a transition from primary to secondary school. I remember she was feeling excited but also a little apprehensive about all the changes that she was going to experience. 

Children naturally have mixed feelings about moving schools but handling change, no matter how old you are, is all about attitude. If you think it will be awful, it will be; on the other hand, if you think it will be exciting and fine, it will be!

What is transition?

Managing transition means helping children to make the difficult process less painful and disruptive.

Transition is the inner process through which children come to terms with a change, as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way things are now. 

‘Change is a wall and transition is a gate. It’s there for your children to go through’ ~ Sue Atkins

To adults, childhood can seem like a carefree time. But children still experience stress. Changing school creates pressure that can feel overwhelming for your child. As a parent, you can't totally protect your child from stress — but you can help them develop healthy ways to cope with and solve everyday problems.

Children deal with stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. And while they may not initiate a conversation about what's bothering them, they do want you to reach out and help them cope with their worries.

But it's not always easy for parents to know what to do for a child who's feeling stressed, or to know why they’re feeling that way. Schools, of course, can be part of the process in supporting children through the transition period, but working together with home and school is the best possible way to help children cope with the big changes.

Tips to handle your child’s stress

1. Avoid overscheduling

One of the biggest stressors for children during this period of transition is being overscheduled. There will be plenty of time to join in extracurricular activities, but to reduce the stress that a new routine creates, allow your kids to come home, finish their homework, eat a healthy meal with you and then get a good night’s sleep. Let them have some downtime with activities that they enjoyed in primary school to ease them in.

2. Notice out loud

Talk to your child when you notice that something’s bothering them. If you can, name the feeling you think your child is experiencing: "It looks like you're still a bit anxious about the bus journey to school.” This shouldn’t sound like an accusation, but a casual observation that you're interested in hearing more about your child's concern. Be sympathetic and show you care and want to understand and help.

3. Listen to your child

Ask your child to tell you what's wrong. Listen attentively and calmly, without interrupting or trying to fix it immediately and with interest, patience and caring. Avoid any urge to judge, blame, lecture or saying what you think your child should have done instead. The idea is to let your child's concerns and feelings be heard. Try to get the whole story by asking questions like "And then what happened?" and remember to take your time - let your child take his or her time, too.

4. Put a label on it

Some children may find it hard to find the words for their feelings. If your child seems angry or frustrated, use those words to help them to learn to identify the emotions by name. Putting feelings into words helps children communicate and develop emotional awareness. Children who can express themselves confidently are less likely to reach the behavioural boiling point where strong emotions come out through the wrong sort of behaviours. Take time to help them express themselves through words.

5. Help your child think of their own solutions

If there's a specific problem that’s causing stress, talk together about what to do. Encourage your child to think of a couple of ideas. You can start the brainstorming if necessary, but don't do all the work. Your child's active participation will build their confidence. Support good ideas and add to them as needed. Ask, "How do you think this will work?"

6. Be patient

As a parent, it hurts to see your child unhappy, worried, anxious or stressed, but try to resist the urge to fix every problem. Instead, focus on helping your child, slowly but surely, grow into a good problem-solver — a child who knows how to adapt to ups and downs and put words to their feelings can calm down when needed. Learning how to bounce back and try again is teaches children the very important life skill of resilience!

You can't solve every problem your child will go through in life. But by teaching them healthy coping strategies, you'll prepare your kids to manage the stresses that come in the future.

As a parent, the difference from primary to secondary can be quite significant, and you may feel less connected and involved in their school day. That’s why parent engagement software is so important during these years, helping you keep in touch with day to day activities, keep on top of homework and monitor absence with ease.

With PS Connect, parents can see a host of important information about their child, such as timetables, attendance, reports, and even achievements and behaviour. Get in touch today to find out how we can help or click here for more information.