If your child hasn’t taken to secondary school like a duck to water, don’t stress too much. There will be many others in the same boat (choppy water). And keep in mind that no transition issue is unsolvable.
Here are 5 more questions to ask yourself as you search for what has upset your child and STEPS TO REPAIR THE SITUATION…
Is your child worried about the work/grades?
Despite all efforts by primary schools and secondary schools to smooth the transition to secondary school, there is often still a jump in the standard of work expected. Really good schools will ensure that students are not coming home in pieces because their grades are much lower than those they were accustomed to at primary school. They will tell students to relax and see their first pieces of work as just a starting point. Unfortunately, some children have heard rumours about how hard secondary school is and are worried right from the start – even before any work has been returned in term one. Make sure that you see your child’s corrected work. Read comments and look at grades. Some schools now upload grades and comments onto school websites where parents can log in and keep up to date with their child’s progress. Reassure your child that every time we start a new job, course or level of education, results can dip in the early days. Explain that things will fall into place with time. Offer to read over homework or look through corrected work. If there is clearly a problem, contact the school.
Is your child self-conscious and upset about not fitting in?
Pre-teens and teenagers crave acceptance and absolutely dread standing out in any way. Fitting in is everything! If your child is on the short side for her age, has particularly bad acne, is overweight or in any way ‘different’, she could be feeling acutely self-conscious. You could approach your GP about the acne and subtly favour low carb healthy meals at home but other things can’t be changed so easily. You can’t magically help a child grow more quickly. You can’t magically make a gentle, shy child more confident around more boisterous children overnight. However, there is one thing you can do. Look for ways to build your child’s self-esteem. If she brings home a good result, make sure you give lots of praise. Praise effort too even if results are not as high as those she has been receiving at primary school. If your child has no outside interests, look for a short course or a hobby she might love. Does the local council or library have holiday activities? Succeeding at an activity in or outside school can give children something to talk about with friends. Extracurricular activities that can make children feel good about themselves will ease these potentially difficult teenage years. Most adults choose not to remember their own teenage years because they were often littered with embarrassing moments, huge uncertainties and nightmares about making a fool of themselves in front of the ‘Gods’. Which Gods are we talking about? The Friends of course!! (Sadly, the capital letter is intentional.)
Is your child too tired to make the most of school?
Pre-teens and teens need enough sleep and a good diet to be able to handle the enormous physical and emotional changes happening in their lives. And then there is school! Most teens need at least 8 hours sleep. If possible, establish a good routine so that your child has some homework completed before dinner and can then finish it after dinner. Children shouldn’t be going to bed too late. If you feel homework is excessive, have a chat with the classroom teacher. However, first make sure that your child isn’t spending hours and hours completing homework because he is constantly chatting with friends online or being distracted with loud music or TV. Homework completed without distractions can be completed in half the time.
Is your child worried about letting you and herself down?
Sometimes children feel that secondary school is suddenly real school and really serious and they are terrified that they won’t be able to handle it well. Make sure you let your child know that secondary school is, in essence, no different to primary school. Yes, the work may be a little harder, but the teachers are there to make sure students understand it. Yes, there are lots of new expectations and processes, but it will become easier every day. The best message parents can give is the ‘We just want you to do your best’ message. But this has to be delivered with conviction. If your child believes that you will be disappointed with any result lower than an A+, naturally he could be a little uneasy and worried about the work at the new school.
Is your child suffering from the ‘disappointed…not-as-exciting-as-I- expected’ syndrome?
Despite all efforts from primary and secondary school staff, some students arrive at secondary school with such huge and unrealistic expectations that they do feel let down. Sometimes students even start acting out in the fourth or fifth week or towards the end of Term 1 when they start realising that secondary school is not always a thrill a minute. Most, however, do adjust and settle down. ’Is secondary school better than you expected? The same? What things surprised you?’ Research the extracurricular activities available at the new school so that you can encourage your child to be involved in new activities. ‘Did you know there’s a chess club/cricket team/robotics club at your new school?’ Don’t force the issue but quietly point out activities your child may enjoy. Getting involved in extracurricular activities is often the ideal way for students to make friends and have something to look forward to.