How to settle your child into high school

RACHEL DOHERTY

Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen

Settling a child into high school can be an anxious time for parents. There’s so much change going on, and lots of unknowns to get your head around. It’s a big change for a family!

School’s starting back this week, which means lots of kids will be heading off to high school for the first time. Those sparkling uniforms and shiny shoes are the hallmarks of the first days.

The process of settling into high school can be a bumpy one, but doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Kids might struggle with the size of high schools, and the way they run. Timetables, changing classrooms and a handful of teachers can be hard to juggle in the beginning. For kids to settle in well, it all comes down to organisation, self-management and plenty of support from home.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Coming to terms with having a high schooler

If your eldest child is hitting high school for the first time, there’s a lot to get used to.

Some parents miss the simpler life of primary school. Others embrace the longer list of subjects and extras that give their kids a chance to try new things.

Parenting a high schooler requires a new set of skills to what you’ve used before. It’s normal for parents to help out in primary school at the canteen, reading groups or on excursions. But in high school parents get a lot less involved. There’s less social interaction with other parents too.

So most of the information you have about what’s going on at school and how your child’s coping comes from them. You have to get good at sorting out what they’re saying from what they mean and facts from fiction.

How to settle kids into high school

There’s no right or wrong way to settle kids into high school. Let’s face it, every child is unique, so their experience of high school will be unique too. But there are ten things you can do to make the process as smooth as possible:

  1. Be positive. In times of change it’s easy to get caught up looking at the difficulties, particularly for kids. But as adults, we have to be the positive voice in their lives. Tell them the things you loved when you were at high school and what lies ahead. Don’t give in to doubts about how your child will fit in. There’s a space for everyone in high school, and a group of friends too.
  1. Let them do it alone. Kids don’t need their parents hovering over them in high school. Let them sort things out on their own. They should be the ones packing their bag and asking for extensions. If they have a problem with a teacher, let them manage it first. Only step in when you feel they’re not getting a fair deal or they’re in out of their depth.
  1. Deal with the emotions. The first few months of high school often collide with the rollercoaster of puberty. So be ready for some big highs and huge lows! It’s normal to have tears and even tantrums in the early days. They may miss their friends and the laid back life at primary school. Be a good listener, empathise with them and tell them it’ll all fall into place soon.
  1. Make a plan for the homework. Most kids find the homework in high school overwhelming at first. Create a space they can work in and get into an afternoon routine around everything else they need to do. If you’d like some more ideas about managing homework, you should read my article on how to create a great homework hustle.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

  1. Expect some speed bumps. Kids in high school need to be more organised and more independent. As these new skills develop, there will be some mistakes and mess ups. Schools expect that and so should you, so don’t add your voice to the ones telling them off when they get it wrong. Just help them to see how they can avoid the same problem in the future.
  1. Help them find their tribe. The most important part of starting high school is to find their right group of friends. For some kids this can be a real trial. Your “help” comes in the form of talking and listening. Listen to the names they rattle off, ask who they spend the lunch break with and who they sit next to in each class. This is where they’ll find those companions they need to survive the first year of high school.
  1. Celebrate the small successes. They might seem insignificant to you, but they’re big steps for a child. Mastering a timetable, organising all the different uniforms and books they need to carry. Getting themselves to and from school on public transport. Whenever your child reveals something new they’ve mastered, stop and give them a high five or a hug. Remind them that they’re going great at this high school thing!
  1. Make sure the printer has ink. And spares. They always seem to need to print something out at the last minute in high school. Until they work out how to print at school, life is easier if you’re always prepared.
  1. Go to the parent-teacher interviews. You’ll hear plenty of tales about those first high school teachers. Who’s nice and who’s scary. Who checks homework and who doesn’t. Who makes them sit in set seats and who’s more laid back. Going to the interviews helps you put the picture together. It also gives you a feel for how your child is going in settling in to high school.
  1. Give it time. It will take kids a while to get used to being at high school. They say about six months, but for some kids it can take the whole first year. Just stay strong, be empathetic and keep them moving forward.

For kids starting high school, the years ahead can seem like forever. But trust me, with one finished school and another in their last year, it passes quick. The first few months can be a trial, but before you know it they’ll have found their rhythm and really start to grow. Both physically and emotionally!

Have you had someone start high school? What worked for you? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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