Starting ‘Big School’ can feel like a huge step and for many families the summer holidays will have felt like a long run-up to the big event. Hopefully, you’ll have had the chance to rehearse the bus route over the summer holiday and perhaps find some other children taking the same bus or route. Your child will have met their form tutor and will know who is going to be with them in their form class.
Even so, for some children the first few days of settling in can be daunting, but there are things you can do to help your child adjust towards autonomy and to settle more quickly. Here are our Top Tips for settling in at ‘Big School’:
Build your child’s confidence by praising them and offering compliments. This will help to build their self-esteem, which is so important, especially when it comes to gathering a wide circle of friends. High self-esteem will help a child to say No to anything they don’t feel comfortable about.
Listen to their Fears – Talk about anything that might make them anxious and practice ‘what if’ scenarios with them. What if he loses his bus money/bus pass; he misses the school bus; he can’t find his key; he gets lost between classes. Talk through the options with them so they feel confident rather than worried.
Be encouraging if they want to invite a friend home and perhaps suggest it if they don’t. Remind your child that being a friend is a good way to make friends, especially to shy and quiet children. However, don’t let children go for visits, sleepovers or parties without first speaking to the other child’s parents. All parents of Year 7’s have to walk the balancing act of staying in control without appearing to be over protective of their child, but it’s vital you have the contact details of the other child’s parents when building new friendships.
Be positive about their school and ‘talk it up’ – high expectations are contagious.
Stick to the uniform policy. Your child will feel more comfortable from day one.
Encourage them to join lunch time and after school clubs. It’s a great way to make friends and broaden horizons.
Make sure they have emergency money and credit on their mobile phone (if they have one).
Think about the routine at home time. The average secondary school child will be expected to complete about an hour of homework a night in Year 7. Encourage them to do homework at a set time and when they have the energy to do so. Give them time and space for homework and check their homework diary/journal. If no homework appears to have been set, check with other parents or school (your child may forget to write it down).
Give your child a few weeks to settle in and make sure you know who to contact at school if you detect any problems. School will always prefer to know early if a problem is developing.
Keep school informed about big changes at home – births, marriages, deaths, divorce and separation all impact on your child and if we know about it we can be a positive support for them.
Be sure that your child arrives in good time to chat to their friends before the day starts.
Make sure you child has memorised important phone numbers and writes them in his/her journal and has them in his/her mobile phone.
Label everything on the kit/uniform list and don’t waste money buying bags/ coats your child just won’t wear – it’s not worth the arguments!
Make sure they have had a proper breakfast.
Encourage a routine of packing the bag the night before – this can often be the undoing of a calm start to the day.
Help your child to organise themselves – it’ll be them that gets the detention for missing kit/homework etc. and that’s a big step change from primary school. At this age they may need help to organise themselves and to get into good habits.
Try to relax and trust your child. If you expect problems you’re much more likely get them. Assume that they can and will get it right and let them enjoy their sense of freedom within clear and set boundaries.