Secondary School – A Transition for Students AND Parents

May 24, 2016 Student Well Being


Over 30 years of research suggests that the transition from primary to secondary school is one of the most traumatic experiences our children will encounter. This period in a young person’s life is already associated with huge physical, cognitive and emotional changes – and they are expected to cope with social and academic change as well!

Orientation is an event, but transition is a process of growth and change – and some students handle it better than others. Parents must also travel this path with their children and, for many, it is equally overwhelming.

When speaking with large groups of parents, I often ask them the question: “Why is itthat once our kids reach secondary school, we lose our confidence and much of our involvement?” The responses are nearly always the same: “Because our kids tell us they don’t want us around”; “Because we want our kids to grow up and think for themselves” and “Because we feel comfortable in primary, but secondary school is SO different now!”

Regardless of what your children tell you, they DO need you – albeit differently. Parents clearly need a more subtle approach, but research is quite clear on this – parental involvement with their child’s education long-term is critical to achievement and a positive outlook on life-long learning.

So, what can parents DO in these critical transition phases? We need to be ‘clever’; we need to be intuitive; we need to be innovative; we need to be PARENTS. Regardless of our own personal secondary school or tertiary experiences, we still have experiences our children do not have as yet – broad life experience!

So, how can parents be ‘participants’ in their child’s education …without making it obvious? A few important tips to consider:

  • Don’t wait until Year 7 before deciding that your child needs some organisation strategies – talks about a system of filing and storing the important ‘stuff’ so at leastthey can FIND what they need to complete work.
  • Don’t wait until that first assignment is due before realising that your child needsto develop planning and time management skills – planners and diaries are VERY usefultools….and take the heat off kids and parents.
  • Don’t wait until your child is so tired and stressed by homework before you considerdiscussing the issue of balance between school / social / activities.
  • Consider the massive adolescent developmental changes which are occurring ,includingmajor brain ‘reconstruction’, and pick the right time to open up a discussion

Whether your child is 5 years of age or 18, they still need the support and understanding of their parents – open lines of communication are critical.

Believe it or not, questions I am asked by parents of children starting school or starting work have a commonality – how do we help our kids achieve their potential? The earlier we start putting some tried and true methods into practice, the better ourkids will cope with these changes and the greater the chance of success.

Parents often don’t give themselves nearly enough credit for having a wealth of lifeexperience….these life skills are the same skills they need to survive in secondary school and beyond. Step up and be confident you can help your kids – they may not thank you now….but they will!

Angie Wilcock, Director of High Hopes Educational Services and author of The Transition Tightrope, is a specialist in transitions in education. She has a 25 year teaching background, and for the past 10 years has delivered key note addresses at conferences across Australia, as well as writing and facilitating workshops for teachers, parents and students on the topics of Transition to Secondary School and the Middle Years.

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