The transition from grade school to high school is an important step that brings with it worries and uncertainties in many children. Going from “oldest in the school” to “youngest in the school” can be offsetting and some children are apprehensive in the face of this change. So, how can you prepare them for this, and how can you prepare yourself? Here are a few tricks that can help you get through this change.
High school, the great unknown: identify the fears in order to better management them
Given that our imagination often makes us apprehensive about the worst scenarios, the unknown during times of change can be scary! Because of this, starting high school can be intimidating and can make your child hesitant about the idea of facing it, without really knowing why they are afraid. The best option is to listen to them in order to help better identify their fears. Keep open communication and speak to them on equal terms in order to show them your support. Here are a few common concerns before the start of high school:
- Being separated from their friends
- Not being able to make new friends
- Having to get to school on their own
- Getting lost at school
- Forgetting their locker combination
- Arriving late
Even if you believe that they are making too big of a deal about the nothing and that their fears are unjustified, avoid trivializing their worries. In fact, it is best to keep a positive approach by recognizing that they are going through an important change. Being available and having an open mind will make all the difference! Once certain worries have been identified and that you have established how to overcome them, avoid constantly bringing up the subject: this will have the opposite effects and will only feed their anxieties instead of diminishing them.
Their integration, your implication!
As a parent, there are many ways to get involved in your child’s school life:
- Schools often organize open houses, which could be an interesting way of getting to know how the school works
- At the start of the school year, and even before the first report card, you can start meeting the teachers
- If you wish to get involved in a more concrete manner, you can also join the school’s parent association
It is important to remember that no matter the capacity in which you get yourself involved, the interest you show in your child’s school life will be gratifying in itself.
A new routine and new responsibilities requires an adaptation period
A new schedule broken up into separate subjects, changing classrooms multiple times per day, and being taught by different teachers that do not all teach the same way are just a few examples of the changes that your child will be facing. Their daily routine will be completely different and it is very normal that this will require some time getting used to! It will therefore be important that you help them manage and integrate their new responsibilities. Here are a few suggestions:
- Before the start of school, ideally before the end of the previous year, go visit their future school while it is still full of students in order to familiarize them with the new environment. Use the school plan in order to pinpoint key areas in the school (secretary, bathrooms, lockers, etc.)
- Similarly, if they will need to get to school on their own (on foot, by bus, or metro), do the route with them a few times in order to establish a few landmarks and determine how long it will take. This way, they will know what time to leave home everyday
- During the summer, give them daily tasks at home that they will have to manage alone. This way, they will learn to better manage their time and become more responsible.
- For the first weeks of school, help them organize their agenda while at the same time taking note of everything they will need for each class, the classroom number, their teacher’s name, etc.
At first glance, these tricks may seem trivial to them and they may be opposed to them, but you must remember that every step will have a direct impact on their stress level and the state in which they integrate themselves into their new environment. By being well prepared, they will have peace of mind and will be better able to manage the new schedule!
A time of self-discovery
Your child is going through many changes in environment and routine, but preadolescence is also a period of self-identification and independence. Your child will have new experiences and will certainly disobey a few rules through changes in appearance or new tastes in music amongst other things. But don’t worry; these are normal behaviors that are common for most children of this age. These behaviors will allow them to assert themselves and define themselves as individuals. Obviously, keep an eye open, and continue giving your child support in order to prevent them to become overwhelmed, but the best approach is to practice a bit of laissez-faire,without panicking!
After-school activities, a good way to make new friends
For some children, adapting to a new social environment can be difficult. In order to facilitate their integration, suggest to them that they look into the after-school activities offered. Be it an improvisation team, a theater group, or a chess club, these group activities will allow them to socialize while sharing similar interests with classmates. In such a situation, it is easier for a shy child to break the ice: having similar interest is a great conversation starter!