Preparing Parents for The Transition from Primary to Secondary
The World Bank Report lists the transition from primary to secondary education one of five important life stage transitions for young people. Most children living in Northern Ireland will go through this transition- either to public or grammar schools, but everyone has their own individual school transition story. I’m offering this advice to let parents know that they are not alone, their anxieties as well as their child’s anxieties are valid, and there are steps that parents can take to ease this transition for their preteen.
“Get to know your preteen so they are comfortable enough opening up to you.”
For confident, ongoing preteens who find it easy to socialise and make friends, the transition may be a relatively easy one, although parents should always make time to check in with teenagers who may be masking real worries about how they’re coping at their new school. Quiet, socially anxious preteens on the other hand, often take a longer time to adapt to their new school environment. Making new friends, leaving old friends behind, the social pressure to find a ‘clique’- it’s a lot for a young person to deal with. Talk with your child about keeping in touch with old friends. Suggest starting a new club or learning a new instrument or sport if the option is there at their new school- this is a great way to make new friends.
“Anxiety for the child, but parents experience anxiety too.”
It’s important that parents check in with themselves, to recognise how they feel about their child’s transition from primary to secondary. It can be a challenging time for families, but if a parent feels anxious, often they will unintentionally burden the child with their anxieties. Parents should know that there is a vast network of staff- school counsellors, Form Teachers, Year Heads- who are there to help your child. They are trained, and will often have first-hand knowledge and experience of anxious First Years from previous years, and will know how to support your child.
Mr Byrne, Vice Principal of St Ronan’s Primary School in Newry notes, “I’d say that the biggest challenge faced by our Primary 7 children is the Unknown. Entering into a new environment, new spaces with new people- it can all be a bit overwhelming. First Years need support from home as well as in their new school environment in order to succeed and be happy.” It’s important they know who to ask for help if and when it is needed.
Bullying and cyberbullying
According to a 2017 briefing paper sampling teenagers in Northern Ireland, 42% of teenagers reported being bullied at some point whilst at school in 2017. For parents, this is a major worry. Building resilience is important, and is something we look into further in our Friends Resilience programmes, which we have brought to schools across the Newry area in recent months. Active Listening to your preteen about how they feel about going to school is crucial.Most parents I work with don’t know what Active Listening actually is. Simply put- it’s opening a conversation with an open mind, no expectations or assumptions. The 7 key Active Listening skills are:
Ask open-ended questions
Ask probing questions
Be attuned to and reflect feelings