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Watford Observer

Family

Full story

Starting secondary school

4:13am Friday 28th August 2015 content supplied by Netmums

First-day nerves

Remember your first day at secondary school? Did you feel a bit lost amongst all those teenagers in the playground and daunted by how big your new school seemed? Then there were all those new subjects to get your head round, the fact that you now have lots of different teachers and, of course, new school mates to try and make friends with...

When it is your child's turn to start secondary school, it helps to step back in time and remember all those emotions you felt as you stood in your new school uniform and prepared to make the leap into the great unknown.

Helping soothe the butterflies

Listen to their worries and have a think about what you can do to help.

Perhaps they're worried about the new bus journey or the walk to school? If so, maybe a few runs in the car to familiarise them with the route will help. Or it might be that they're nervous about making friends, so you should be sure to remind them that everyone will be in the same boat. In many cases, they will be joining the school alongside friends from primary so they won't be 'alone'.

Whatever fears your child may have, they are all equally valid, so try not to dismiss them. And if you yourself did not have a very positive experience at school, try not to let that influence your child!

Getting used to the big change - the early weeks

In the early days of starting at secondary, give your child a bit of leeway - they're going to need a bit of 'bedding in' to their new routine, getting used to following a timetable and all the new faces. It will take a few weeks for them to start feeling confident and relaxed.

Expect quite a bit of tiredness at the end of the day, so cut them some slack at weekends and let things shift down a gear at home to accommodate the new weekday routine.

Be there at the end of the day with plenty of healthy snacks and a listening ear when they need to talk, and try to make sure they get enough sleep to cope with their busy days ahead.

Homework - getting used to the extra load

With secondary school comes a new heap of homework. And with so many different teachers and subjects, if your child isn't organised it can all pile up.

It pays to get into a routine around homework sooner rather than later.

Some schools give pupils homework planners so they can write down all their tasks and when they need to be handed in. If they don't get one - buy them a jotter so they can keep a record of what they need to do for when and at the beginning, sit down and help them plan it all out.

If they end up leaving it all to the last minute and having to cram it all in the night before, it can be really stressful - for you both!

Kitted out for the first day

Your child's school will probably have given you a list of all the things your child will need for starting school. If not - you can find out loads on the school's website and by talking to other mums. There's the uniform and gym kit but also they might need a few extras such as:

  • Calculator (many secondaries require pupils to have a scientific calculator).
  • Pencil case and plenty of pens, pencils, rubber, ruler, pencil sharpener, etc.
  • Geometry/maths set.
  • A rucksack/bag that is big enough for all their jotters and textbooks, but one which they can carry easily as they will have to lug it round with them all day.
  • English & French dictionary (or other language dictionary as necessary).

Your child will be told in the first weeks how to go about getting a locker and the routines and payments for school lunches.

Top tip:

If this is the first time your child will have to wear a tie then use the summer to practice how to tie it.

We also have a uniform checklist and helpful tips here.

A new level of independence

Perhaps the biggest change (for you both) is the huge step-up in terms of how much your child will have to be independent.

You might have dropped off or picked up your child at primary school. You were at in the playground so often that you saw your child play and chat to friends, knew all the mums and kept up to date with the daily goings on. You will have known your child's class teacher, the head teachers and other staff well and you'll have been part of all the weekly goings on - watching them on sport's day, attending bake sales and special assemblies, popping into the school after drop-off to sort out any worries...

Now your child will have to make their own way to and from school and they really have to navigate the whole school routine on their own.

As a parent, you may not get to meet the teachers until the first parents' evening - and then you'll only see them for a short 5- or 10-minute appointment.

At primary you knew all their friends - as well as many of their friends' parents and siblings. Now they will make new friends and it feels odd not knowing who they are, where they live or who their parents are.

As a parent, it's quite hard to suddenly go from being so involved to feeling like you are more distanced from them and their new school world.

Of course, for your child it can add to the nerves and anxiety they may feel too.

Top tip

Print out or photocopy your child's weekly timetable. It's handy to have a copy in case they lose it and also you can help them make sure they pack their bag each night with all the things they need for the next day. You'll also know when they will need gym kit, to avoid any last-minute panics trying to find gym shoes and realising that their shorts are in the wash in the morning, half an hour before they have to leave.

Building your child's confidence

As your child prepares to enter a new, unknown world of secondary education, there's perhaps never a more important time to nurture their confidence and self-esteem.

  • Give praise willingly and often - Concentrate on what they are doing well and let them know how pleased you are with them, then make a concerted effort to work together on the subjects that don't come so naturally to them.
  • Devote proper quality time to them in the evenings - take the time out to read their essays or find out what happened in PE today. Did they score a goal in the football game? Don't pin everything solely on academic success - sports and extra curricular activities they have excelled at are equally worthy of praise.
  • Emphasise the fact that everyone makes mistakes - if your child has had a bad day and not done so well in something, try not to be critical. The important thing to remind your child of is that sometimes failing at things is part and parcel of life - we can't be wonderful at everything!
  • Always give your full attention to your child when they are trying to express their concerns about something - don't brush their anxieties under the carpet and say 'we'll talk about it later...'. Your child will feel you're not taking their problems seriously and may not come to you in the future when they have a problem.
  • Encourage their independence and free thinking. Try to provide a stimulating home environment where their opinions on things - from current affairs to pop music - are listened to and integrated into adult conversation. Not only will this help your child to develop good social skills but it will give them a strong sense of self and help them to know their own mind. Remind them of the importance of not blindly 'following the herd'.
  • Be there to talk about friendship worries. Your child will be meeting and making all sorts of new friends and sometimes drifting away from their old primary school friendship groups. It's a time of change and it's inevitable that your child will fall in and out of favour with different groups of friends. Assure your child there is nothing 'wrong' with them if they're feeling excluded from the 'in crowd' or are having difficultly forming special friendships. Unfortunately this is one area where children really have to find their own way - and they will in time - be there to listen and support them in the meantime.

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