5 tips on preparing your child for secondary school

by Anna Michaelidou

When the time comes for our child to start secondary school it can be both an exciting and terrifying time; for both the parent and the child. All of a sudden our little ones go from being young and carefree to having responsibilities; a new chapter in their lives has begun.

As parents we spend time worrying about how they will manage, whether they will make friends and if they will cope with their homework. But we did the same when they started primary school for the first time; we just don't remember that far back! How would they cope without us? Would they eat properly? Would they make friends? But just as they settled into the routine of primary school, they will settle into their new 'big' school.

school uniform

There are of course ways to make the transition from primary to senior school smoother. Here are five ways to help your child prepare for secondary school and ensure that their new chapter begins smoothly and successfully.

1. Talk about the changes they will face

One of the biggest changes your child will face is moving from the top class of the primary school to the bottom class of a secondary school. Of course it is perfectly natural for your child to feel nervous, but knowing you are there to listen to their anxieties will help them feel more secure.Their secondary school will also probably be much larger than their primary school. Explain that it is perfectly fine to take some time to get used to finding different relevant places at the school and that all of the children in their new class will be facing the same challenges. With secondary school comes more responsibility so it's a good idea to have a chat about the expectations that come with going to a bigger school. Homework will be more difficult and more often that what they are probably used to, lessons will need more concentration and they will have deadlines that they will need to stick to. Try easing them in to more responsibilities over the summer with a few extra tasks such as keeping their bedroom tidy and helping out with other chores.

2. Consider their feelings

Your child will almost certainly have mixed feelings about their upcoming transition. Encourage them to talk to you about their feelings and share their concerns with you. Talk through any issues with them, whether it be about making new friends, bullying or how they will get to school.

Reassure your child that their fears and apprehensions are perfectly normal and that everyone has the same worries on their first day of school. Try to be positive about any challenges they will face and talk through some solutions to help put their minds at ease.

3. Be prepared for the first day

The first day of school will be filled with mixed feelings and the last thing you or your child need is to be worrying about something you haven't done or something you have forgotten to buy.

Make sure you have all of their uniform ready, their sports bag full with everything they will need and their school shoes polished and ready to put on in the morning. Also, make sure their school bag is packed with the necessary stationary your child will need at their new school. Most secondary schools will expect children to have:

  • pencil case
  • pencils
  • pens
  • erasers
  • rulers
  • calculator
  • geometry set

It's a good idea to let your child choose their own school bag; just make sure it's ready and packed for the first morning of the new school.

An early night will ensure your child is calmer when they wake up and less stressed as late nights can bring morning moodiness. Also make sure they have a good breakfast and are ready with a packed lunch or school dinner money; whichever they have chosen.

4. Encourage them to get into a routine

Routine generally takes away stress so it's always a good idea to encourage a good daily routine for your child to get into. Bed time should be at a standard time every night during the school week and your child should get used to making sure they have everything ready for school from the night before.

Morning routines should also be in place. Getting dressed, brushing their teeth, eating their breakfast, preparing their packed lunch, eating their daily vitamin and leaving at the correct time each morning will alleviate any stresses.

The same kind of routine should also apply for after school. Your child should have a set time and place to do their homework each afternoon, time for any after-school activities and time left aside for them to relax and do what they like to do. It's a good idea to have a calendar on your fridge to remind your child of the different preparations they have to do for different days.

5. Plan the journey together


With the transition from primary to secondary school comes more independence and many children starting secondary school will probably be making the journey there on their own. Of course, if you are anything like me you'll probably want to go with them on the first day just to make sure they make it there on time and are happy with their route.

It is not a bad idea to go through the route a few times beforehand and talk about alternative ways to get to school should the normal way not be viable one day. Make sure the route is the safest, avoiding bigger roads where possible even if it means adding a few extra minutes to their journey.

Whether they are walking, cycling or taking the bus to school make sure your child feels comfortable with their route before the first day.

Most children now also have mobile phones, so make sure your child has any emergency numbers they may need already in their phone directory. Talk to your child about safe places they can go if they can't get home and who best to call should there be a problem. If they have a friend who lives nearby and goes to the same school, it may be a good idea to arrange for them to travel together.

Also, if your child feels uncomfortable it may be a good idea to travel with them for the first few days until their confidence grows.