This is from the Guardian newspaper Tuesday 31 August 2010
Professor Julian Elliott, an educational psychologist at Durham University, says: “For many children, secondary school represents a step towards autonomy and the whole process of growing up and leaving childhood behind.” It can be overwhelming for children and parents alike.
But there are things you can do to make things easier, and things you can think about now that will help your child adjust and settle in quickly.
• Build your child’s confidence. Settling in well is all about self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem are less likely to be bullied, or to bully, or belong to gangs. They are more likely to gather a wide circle of friends. They can confidently say “no” to anything with which they don’t feel comfortable. So tell them how great they are. When did you last pay them a compliment? They don’t have to have done anything special to deserve one; a compliment on how well they look after a pet, or that they are kind or thoughtful, goes a long way. Do this daily and watch their confidence develop.
• Listen to their fears. Your child is possibly anxious and also afraid their concerns will appear trivial. For instance, if they become lost in the maze of corridors, what should they do? They could make their way to the school office – they should have a map – or find a pupil or teacher to direct them. What they shouldn’t do is hide in the toilets until the lesson is over. Talk through the options with them. Do this for every concern they may have so that they know you take it seriously.
• Remind your child that being a good friend, especially to shy and quiet children, is one way to make friends. Be encouraging if they want to invite friends home and suggest it if they don’t.
• Show that you feel positive about their school and “talk it up” even if it was not your first choice or you lost an admissions appeal. If you have high expectations, these will be sensed by your child.
• Have a trial run of the route, especially if they walk or cycle. If they miss a school bus home you need to talk through what they will do, especially if you are working and can’t pick them up straight away.
• Get up earlier during the last week of the holidays so that early starts for school aren’t a shock to the system.
• Stick to the uniform code. Your child will feel more comfortable from day one.
• Make sure they have emergency money and credit on their mobile phone – if it’s allowed in school.
• Think about any changes you might need to make at home so they have the time, space and energy for homework. One parent who has three children shared her strategy: homework begins at a set time every day, after dinner, with all three children working simultaneously to avoid distractions. In the early days you should check their homework diary daily and if it looks empty, check with other parents or the school. Your child may simply forget to write it down.
• Encourage them to join lunchtime or after-school clubs. They are a great way to make friends. If after half a term they really don’t enjoy it, they can drop it.
Give your child a few weeks to settle in. Ensure you know who to contact for any situation, and the school’s preferred means of contact. If they are having any problems, social or educational, make an appointment to see their form tutor.
• Glynis Kozma is author of Secondary School: A Parent’s Guide, and was a teacher for 30 years