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Positive Transition to High School – Supporting Adolescents to Cope & Thrive

 Ida Soghomonian MA DCH JP

Moving from primary school to high school is a significant event in every child’s education journey.

There is no doubt high school takes some adjustment, and preparation is the key to a successful transition for your child.

High school is a wonderful place for your child to make new friends, learn new skills and eventually make important decisions about their career and future – they will enjoy it once they feel comfortable in their environment.

Most students move to their new schools and thrive on the challenges of the new environment and varied experiences that high school offers. They find it both exciting and scary to be going from being the oldest group in the school to the youngest; to be moving from a familiar environment to a larger and unfamiliar environment; and from being well known by many teachers to being relatively unknown.

For some students, however, it is a challenge to leave the security of their primary school. They can possibly lose their connection with school and learning at this time. That is why it is vitally important for not only educators but also parents to make the transition a positive experience. It essential to cultivate connectedness to school and their sense of belonging to their new environment.

In order to help children cope better and thrive, I have highlighted some key points as a guideline for smoother transition.

Parental Proactivity

  • Familiarise yourself with the school’s teaching and learning program
  • Communicate with the school
  • Project positive attitude about school to your child
  • Be involved in the school community
  • Be informed
  • Prepare for the year
  • Effective communication with your child
  • Set Boundaries
  • Establish support structures
  • Recognise signs of stress before it leads to distress

Supporting Positive Transition

  • Be interested and enthusiastic about their move to high school
  • Make sure travel arrangements to and from school are organised
  • Discuss the changes every student will experience
  • Organise your child’s uniform, books & stationary before school starts
  • Learn about school routines, timetables & homework expectations
  • Help your child to develop good study habits
  • Encourage organisational skills
  • Discuss emergency and safety issues
  • Encourage new friendship building
  • Do not start talking about HSC & ATAR from year 7

Resilience Building

  • Establish meaningful engagement with your child
  • Love, accept & respect your child for who they are
  • Recognise & focus on strengths
  • Build on what your child is already good at
  • Encourage uniqueness
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Promote sense of self
  • Support choices
  • Cultivate optimistic thinking
  • Provide constructive feedback (instead of negative criticism)
  • Create a safe and stress free haven for your child

Learning to handle disappointments

  • Set realistic goals
  • Let them make their own mistakes
  • Teach them to respect other people’s space & privacy
  • Talk to your child about:
    • The importance of words in problem solving
    • It’s not always about winning, but how the game is played
    • It’s not about always getting the best mark, but how hard they tried
    • It’s not about being the most popular, but true friendships
    • Not coming first isn’t the end of the world
    • Social skills is just as important as academic performance
    • This stage of their life will also pass

Supporting Academic Performance

  • Encourage Effective study skills
  • Timetabling
  • Assess expectations
  • Encourage realistic goal setting
  • External tutoring reduction – not hot housing
  • Not exerting excessive pressure to perform
  • Look at whole-child
  • Maintaining balance
  • Be aware of & discuss cyber safety
  • Monitoring use of social media & gaming
  • Encourage adequate sleep (8-9 hours a night) to rest the mind and recharge

Tips for Students Starting High School

  • Be on time & organised – use a diary
  • Ask for help if you need something or are unsure
  • Make an effort to make new friends but choose wisely
  • Speak up & ask questions in class
  • Become familiar with the school layout
  • Get to know your timetable
  • Set up a home study area
  • Remember books, sports gear and instruments
  • Have a proper lunch & lots of water
  • Get involved in extracurricular school activities
  • Volunteer for leadership opportunities
  • First impressions count – project good behaviour & presentation

Take away points for reflection

  • Is your child functioning effectively in an age appropriate manner?               Routines, boundaries, responsibilities, interactions
  • What are your child’s strengths?                                                                              Build on these to make your child even stronger
  • Is your child primed to thrive?                                                                             Positive mindset, locus of control, self-esteem, motivation
  • Beyond HSC as they enter the real world what survival tools are they equipped with?                                                                                                                           Critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, creativity, self-control, resilience
Ida Soghomonian
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