Starting high school this year? Here's how to manage the transition

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The change from Primary to High school can be stressful for some
The change from Primary to High school can be stressful for some

Kristen Strahlendorf is an Educational Psychologist from the Family Tree Therapy Center. Here she discusses this leap and how parents can cope with this change. 

Progressing from primary school to high school involves your child growing into an independent adolescent. During this time, their personality starts changing and they begin developing their strong thoughts and opinions.

Academically, homework and the curriculum become more challenging and the time they need to dedicate to learning increases – placing more emphasis on accountability and responsibility.

This progression enables them to prepare themselves for the start of their educational and vocational journey towards the higher grades.

The Year before High School

Parents need to foster and focus on building good study habits for success in future grades. Starting early will help your child practice good study habits such as organisation and time management before he or she enters high school while building studying resilience.

Understand your child's learning pace will also allow parents to manage the time needed to do homework and find weak areas that need educational support.

This will allow for parents to place early intervention in place through extra tuition or remedial lessons.

One of the key differences between primary and high school is the level of supervision and independence children need. Parents need to encourage more self-directed and independent learning.

Allow your child to take responsibility of scheduling time for homework and assignments and keep track of deadlines through daily check-ins progressing to weekly check-ins phasing in more and more responsibility.

Getting ready for Grade 8 and the first day!

It's your child's first day of High School!

Getting them physically, emotionally and mentally involves some preparation. Some primary school learners may experience anxiety about the move from a big school to "bigger" school.

They must perceive their parents as being positive and enthusiastic about the move.

If you are positive, your child's outlook will more likely be positive and their anxiety levels contained.

Parents and pupils need to attend high school orientation days. This is where getting to know the school's physical layout, meeting the teachers and learning of school activities and rules are vital.

This also provides learners with the opportunity to mingle with other fellow pupils, which will help ease first-day jitters and shyness. Parents should have already accustomed their children to some form of routine.

High school pupils will need to learn how to be punctual for classes, moving around from classroom to classroom with their school timetable, with daily homework, activities and projects. There is nothing worse than being non-punctual.

Arriving late on the first day is the worst impression your child can make, placing added pressure on them to make friends and obeying school rules. Make sure school routes and alternative routes are figured out beforehand and that you always leave 10 minutes early.

Practice with your children the weekend before school starts with a school day simulation. This makes you and your child more comfortable with what to expect when travelling to school.

Parents also need to encourage their child to talk about their day at school and their feelings. This allows parents to be in-sync with their child, picking up any underlying issues that can be investigated quickly.

Easing into high school

Get organised. Buy your child a high school starter pack. This comprises of a school backpack, stationary, the correct school uniform and a diary or notebook. 

Teach your child to take down notes, this will remove pressures in forgetting.

Add in a lunchbox (filled with nutritious food and a treat), a loving and encouraging message, something as small as "Dad is proud of you – be great! See you later" can go a long way for your child.

Encourage your child to participate in extracurriculars. This helps your child integrate into the social environment while they explore their interests and natural aptitudes. All study and no play will isolate your child from social development.

Exercise and sports are also great for physical well-being and health. Actively promote these activities, even if your child is not first in the team.

Reward their participation and exchange words of positivity, encouragement and commitment. 

Often pupils may hide their emotions and feelings. Parents need to be cognisant of this life-changing phase in addition to your child transitioning into adolescence which comes with its excitements and concerns.

Taking this leap into high school may be overwhelming, but with the correct parenting and preparation - the first day of high school will be manageable and memorable.


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