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Your child’s first day of secondary school is a strange and emotional time. You see that 11 year old swamped in a new uniform looking half like a child and half like a teenager and you instantly remember their first ever day as a tiny little four year old looking too miniature to be ready for such a big step.
For your son or daughter, it’s even more daunting. The leap from primary to secondary school is a significant one. There’s a lot of unknowns, which can cause anxiety among some children.
As we approach the last few days of the summer, there’s a lot for you and your child to consider and prepare. Here are a few of our top tips for parents dealing with the milestone of secondary school.
Talk about the change
Be open with your child about the fact that secondary school can be a daunting step. 11 year olds can be notoriously hard to communicate with (hello preteen hormones!), so asking them how they’re feeling probably won’t illicit much of a response.
Instead ask them what they expect or what they’re excited about. If they don’t seem keen to talk, don’t push them. Just let him or her know that you understand that it’s a big change and you’re there for any questions or advice.
Make them feel comfortable
The most terrifying part about starting a new school is the fear of the unknown. This is something your child has never experienced before so they’ll have no idea what to expect.
For that reason, bring as much familiarity as you can to the experience. Let them browse the school website to see what the building looks like and who their teachers are. If your child is taking the bus, practice the route with them or drive by the school in the run up.
During the week before school starts, practice getting up a bit earlier again and going to bed at a reasonable hour. Help them tone down their evenings as a lot of this time will be spent doing homework.
Give them space
In the first few weeks after school starts, you’ll need to be patient. Secondary school and the change that comes with it can be physically exhausting at the start – so don’t be surprised if your little one comes straight home from school and falls asleep on the sofa.
It might take a little while for them to get used to the new routine. During this time don’t put too much pressure on them to be full of energy and excitement all the time.
Secondary school is when you’ll really notice just how grown up your baby has become. They’ll be more keen to do things on their own and you should encourage this independence – as frightening is this can be. At the same time, it’s important to promote responsibility. Let them know that if they forget to do homework, they have to face the consequences and if they’re given lunch money during the week, they have to budget it and spend it responsibly.
Don’t leave things to the night before
The night before the first day of a new school will be filled with nervous jitters and probably very little sleep for the both of you. Make sure everything is prepared well in advance. Ensure their uniform is ready and everything fits. Have the school books and school bag laid out and get up extra early in the morning so that everything is not a rush before you have to leave.
Start a homework routine early
Secondary school can bring a considerable amount of extra homework than your child is used to, so get them off to a good start by having a solid homework routine from the outset. Set aside a couple of hours in the evening just for homework – where devices and distractions are out of the way. At the same time, make sure your child is not working too late into the evening feeling stressed. Help and support them when you can.
We all want our children to do well and get good grades but it’s not the be all and end all – especially in the first few weeks of coping with such a big change. Let them know you’re proud of how their adapting, fitting in and making friends. Being positive and encouraging will build their confidence and make them more focused and committed to continuing their good work.
Is your child starting secondary school this September? Let us know your top tips by using the hashtag #MyIrishLife or by leaving a comment below.
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