Posted on: 4 September 2023

Moving from primary school to secondary school can be exciting and marks a new phase in a young person’s life.  However, with any change it can also bring with it uncertainty.  Most of us manage the change well, but there can be some ups and downs along the way.  Here are some tips to try and help your child’s transition into secondary school to be as smooth as possible.

Preparation:   Anxious feelings can be helpful, they motivate us to practice, prepare and/or seek support. Some of your child’s feelings might lead them to engage in, with support, preparation activities (e.g. planning a route into school, packing a bag, connecting with friends or talking about likely school situations). Speak to your young person about the importance of responding to anxious feelings with preparation, where possible, rather than less helpful strategies like avoidance.   

Adapting This might be a time of multiple changes in your young person’s lived experience; they are not just changing school but may be experiencing change in friendships, family, and in themselves related to puberty. In the context of multiple changes it can be helpful to make time to talk about what is not immediately changing. A young person’s values (e.g. the kind of person they want to be), strengths, aspirations, as well as some family relationships might be given attention during times of change.

Validating their experience:   Transition times can be challenging for your young person for a number of reasons.  Perhaps they are worried about making new friends, being organised, new systems, harder work, being bullied, older schoolmates, finding their way to lessons in different classrooms or having more homework. Accept and empathise with whatever feelings your young person is able to share and then, when they can engage with this, help them problem solve and develop the skills necessary to thrive in their new environment.  

How parents/carers can help:  Parents/carers can help by focusing on these key areas (adapted from Cath Lowther’s ‘Resilience Ball’ 2022):-

Bonding: Support your young person in the maintenance of existing, and development of new, close relationships.

Mastery: Communicate ‘Growth Mindset’ language regarding learning. This involves praise for sustained effort (rather than attainment) and sharing a belief that success is the result of practice (rather than innate abilities). 

Meaning: Make time to talk about values, principles, goals and role models.

Skills: Teach your young person the skills they will need to succeed. This might include learning skills, emotional regulation skills and/or social skills.

Basics: Help your young person maintain good enough sleep, and a healthy diet. Encourage them to engage in exercise of some sort, and ensure there is time and space to do activities that bring them joy.

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