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Is my child struggling with secondary school?

Young boy face close up with glasses

Published at 3:08pm 17th September 2018.

Evolve Psychology Promoted by
Evolve Psychology

Child psychologist has advice for parents  of children who having moved from primary to secondary school this year. 

Social pressures, different routines and new responsibilities all form part of the challenges faced by children who make the move from one school to another. 

But how can parents make sure their youngsters are settling well and how can they help?

What new skills will children need to develop at secondary school?

  • Self-motivation and responsibility - suddenly the power is in their hands. Getting to lessons on time, bringing the right equipment and completing homework is now largely the responsibility of the young person. 
  • Orientation - the physical size of school grounds, the number of pupils / teachers within the school and even the size of older children can be daunting, but the first couple of months are vital for finding their way around and getting to grips with their secondary school layout. 
  • Organisation and planning - not leaving things until last minute can be important lesson to learn (and lets be honest... even adults struggle with this sometimes!), but success at secondary school is much easier when students are able to look ahead and make decisions in good time. From complex things like completing coursework ahead of schedule to more simple tasks such as packing your bag the night before all make a difference.
  • Social skills - a HUGE part of secondary is making friends. And, as we're sure you can remember, friendships dynamics change quickly, seemingly without reason and will undoubtedly at some point cause upset. But the friends children make are school can be solid foundations for the future and should never be underestimated. There are also the added pressures of social media nowadays too.
  • Sensory adaptation - particularly for children with additional needs factors such as noise, smells, new faces, and teachers and students who are unfamiliar with their support needs, can be a challenge.
Timetable paper compass and protractor

How do I know my child is struggling with secondary school?

Warning signs children are finding the transition difficult can include being more quiet than normal, being teary and upset over small things, loss of appetite or difficulty sleeping.

But all children are different and parents are experts in their own children, so it's all about looking for changes.

Has their behaviour changed? Do they act how they used to? Are they enjoying the same things?

If not, your child could need a little extra support. Harrogate based Evolve Psychology can help with this. The team of psychologists, neurodevelopmental specialists, psychiatrists and speech and language therapists, would be happy to talk to anyone concerned. 

Pad of paper and ipad

How to make secondary school transitions easier?

  • Practically - help children by looking through their timetable, studying a map and planning how the day will go. It can also be good to discuss who their teachers will be and what they look like. School websites can often help with this. Schools may offer buddy systems and induction days which are very useful. 
  • Socially - making friends is important so perhaps have a discussion with your child about how they can make new friends, whether there are any friends moving with them, what kind of friends they'd like to have and also how they can be good friends to others around them.
  • Take an interest and be positive - ask open questions so children can answer honestly and encourage feelings of positivity - what do they enjoy, what are they looking forward to and how can they make sure they're making the most of all the opportunities available to them?
  • Be open with feelings - it's normal to be nervous, scared, anxious and it's alright to talk about it. How can we help them?
  • Workbooks - if you're struggling with having productive conversations, Evolve Psyhcology can recommend a selection of books that will really help. Get in touch with Dr Laura Powling and she's be happy to help

Tom Harland talked to Clinical Psychologist Dr Laura Powling from Evolve Psychology about children transitioning from primary to secondary school on the Stray FM Health and Wellbeing Show:

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