There are so many practical strategies that parents can use to help children develop important attributes before hitting the gates of the new secondary school. These attributes can help every child be happier and do their very best academically, emotionally and socially at the secondary level.
You probably already know which attribute your child needs to work on. These strategies may give you food for thought and a few new ideas to try. Future articles will cover each attribute in greater detail.
- Get as much information as possible about daily routines in the new secondary school so that your child knows what to expect and is therefore more confident.
- Deliberately provide your child with small confidence-building opportunities throughout primary school. These could include trying a new sport, taking up a new hobby or completing a short holiday workshop. Every small taste of success helps.
- Make sure your child knows that you understand what it’s like to start at a new place. Mention a new job you began at some point. Explain that all students will be new at the secondary school and teachers don’t expect students to know everything or be good at everything. Stress that although new starts can make all of us a little nervous, they are also exciting.
- Helping children to find a hobby, sport or activity they are good at, increases their self-esteem. ‘You’re really good at that!’ ‘Wow! You can do that so well!’
- It’s important to praise children not simply for their tangible skills and achievements, but for their hard work, generosity, thoughtfulness, great ideas or even ability to think quickly. All children have talents they are unaware of.
- Find opportunities to praise your child for the attitudes and qualities we sometimes forget to mention. ‘I am so impressed with the way you handled that tough situation.’ ‘I am proud of the way you helped Adrian. That was a kind and generous thing to do for Anna.’
- Allow your child to fall, to fail and to not always win. With all of the best intentions in the world, we can overprotect children and leave them more vulnerable to falling apart when they hit their first big hurdle or ‘failure’. If we always rush to pick children up, they never learn to get back up themselves.
- Encourage your child to not always play it safe but to try new and more difficult challenges. These could be as simple as enrolling in a holiday program with no friends there for support. For many children, this wouldn’t be a simple thing to do. It would be very challenging. But this is how young people develop greater resilience and greater self-esteem too.
- Make sure your child knows that you admire trying and effort just as much as success. If children know that it’s okay to give something a go and not necessarily nail it, they won’t panic or give up if they occasionally fall down.
- Children learn how to be more positive by listening to those closest to them. Model looking at things through a positive lens rather than a negative one. Help children see the positives in situations they don’t particularly enjoy.
- Tell children about looking at life with a ‘glass-half-full’ mentality rather than a ‘glass-half-empty’ one. Children can understand this concept.
Interpersonal skills and the ability to make friends
- Holiday programs and short courses can again help out here. Having to adapt to a new situation without the support of family and friends is a great learning experience and helps children learn how to make new friends.
- Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities at school especially those that involve team work.
- Make your child’s friends welcome in your home so that there are greater opportunities for return invitations where other children may be.
Charm and manners
- Tell your child how impressed people are when a young person says ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’.
- Praise your child for showing great manners.
- If you come across a child who doesn’t have good manners, casually point this out to your child.
- Point out adults and children who do show charm and manners.
- Talking to children about how you have felt in various situations helps them to think and see things from the perspective of another person. ‘How do you think Emily must be feeling right now?’
- When challenging events are covered in the news, talk about how the people depicted might be feeling. ‘Can you imagine what it must feel like to be in their shoes? What would you do?’
Willingness to ask for help
- Give the clear message that asking for help is the sensible and mature thing to do.
- Tell your child that the best way to do well at secondary school is to address problems as soon as they arise. It’s not a good idea to wait until a problem becomes really big.
- Explain that teachers are happy to spend a few minutes after class to explain a task or new concept.
- Ask your child to tell you if there is something she doesn’t understand so that you can talk together about ways to solve the issue.
Self-reliance – ability to accept responsibility
- Don’t always remind your child about due dates of work, responsibilities and other tasks he should remember. If children forget, gently but firmly explain that it is important they start to remember without being reminded. If we continue to remind children about everything, they will never step up and be more responsible.
- Suggest that your child keeps a list of important things that need to be done. Explain that even adults keep a diary or study planner so that they remember important tasks and responsibilities.
- Buy your child a wall planner so that important dates and events can be clearly marked. If children start learning to plan ahead and remember important tasks, they are learning an essential skill required in secondary school.
- You will know whether your child has a tendency to give up or is absolutely determined when confronted with a problem or task to achieve. When children need greater determination, we should not allow them to easily give up. Encourage another attempt or another strategy. Explain that it is just as important to keep trying as it is to succeed. Give the clear message that everyone admires people who persevere and try their best whether they succeed or not.
- Model being determined to achieve something. Children do take notice even when we think they don’t.
- Talk about a time when you felt proud of your efforts even though you didn’t win or achieve a particular goal.