7 Ways to Help your Child Prepare for Secondary School

Child drawing with coloured pen

It’s nearly that time of year again: time to pull out the school uniforms, dust off the sports gear and buy a whole new set of school books. Kids across the country are preparing to go back to school and of course some are making the transition to secondary. While it’s one of the biggest days of their lives, for many it’s a daunting experience. They may have to get used to changing classrooms on the hour for example, dealing with more than just one teacher and studying subjects they have never encountered before.

So, what can you as a parent do to help your child prepare?

1. Talk it through

“Starting secondary school is going to mean change for your child and with all changes comes anxiety,” says Sheila O’Malley of practicalparenting.ie. She recommends talking about it in advance. “Sit down with your child before the big day and talk about what is going to happen step-by-step.”Talking about the fears you yourself had as a child and the obstacles you faced in the same situation, will also help. Explain to your child how you overcame those challenges.

2. Cultivate a relaxed attitude

Children mirror the attitude of their parents and an anxious parent leads to an anxious child. “Try to cultivate a relaxed and positive attitude towards their starting at secondary school, which will be picked up by your child,” says Sheila O’Malley. “For example, talk about it in a positive way, emphasising that it will be a fun and enjoyable experience.” 

Mother and son doing the dishes in kitchen

3. Get the right school gear

Psychologically a child will feel more capable in school if they have the necessary books, stationary, sports gear and they are wearing the right uniform. So, make sure you’ve acquired all the kit ahead of September 1st.

4. Encourage independence

“So many parents these days do almost everything for their children with the result that they become helpless when they find themselves alone in challenging situations,” says Sheila O’Malley. 

She recommends encouraging your child to be responsible and to stand on his or her own two feet. Rather than making their school lunch for them, perhaps you could teach them how to do it themselves? Instead of dropping them to school, show them how to make their own way there? Anything that encourages independence, will benefit them in the long run. 

5. Build confidence

A confident child is a capable one and the best way to build confidence in a child is to encourage their sense of worth.“Rather than trying to fight their battles for them and being overly involved in their lives, say to them: ‘I believe in you’ and ‘I trust you’.

“That way you teach them to deal with situations themselves, which is what they’ll need to do at secondary school.”

6. Emphasise the importance of friendship

One of the main challenges to be faced with when starting secondary school is having to make a whole new set of friends, often leaving behind the ones you had in primary school. 

If your child is introverted, explain that making eye contact, smiling, showing interest in others and starting conversations are ways to go about making new friends. It’s important to maintain friendships outside of school too. Encourage your child to join an afterschool club or to take up a sport. Shared interests will lead to stronger friendships.

Group of girls hugging and laughing

7. Listen to your child

We all lead busy lives these days, but it’s important to take time to listen to your child. He or she will no doubt have a lot to talk about during the first few weeks of the school experience. 

By encouraging them to talk about their day and listening to what they have to say, you will help them to tackle any issues that may arise and provide emotional support at a time when they need it.

Other Available Supports

Promoting positive mental health and wellbeing to all individuals and communities.

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Visit: https://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/

The National Centre for Youth Mental Health.

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Call: 01 472 7010
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Dedicated to reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection that can lead to suicide.

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Visit: https://www.samaritans.org/?nation=ireland

Assisting people affected by depression, bipolar disorder and related mood conditions.

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Visit: https://www.aware.ie/

Peer advocacy in mental health.

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Visit: http://irishadvocacynetwork.com/wp/

Ireland’s youth information website created by young people, for young people.

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Call: 01 675 3554
Visit: https://spunout.ie/

Confidential helpline for parents and guardians.

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Call: 01 873 3500
Visit: https://www.parentline.ie/

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