Remember the terrifying feeling of the first day at high school? My experience was rather dreadful as I’d just moved to a new area and didn’t have anyone to start my new school with. It was the ’70s and parents didn’t coddle us as much as we do these days. I remember cycling to school then going into this gigantic building I’d never been in before, on my own. It was terrifying. So, I was adamant that my kids would never have to experience the same feelings that I did when starting a new school. In this post, I will be sharing some of the things I did to help my daughter before starting high school.
A new school is daunting for most kids, as they transition from being a big fish in a little pond to a small fish in a big pond. But there are always things we can do to prepare our kids for the changes and challenges of starting high school.
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Starting high school
Starting high school tips:
- Talk to your child about their worries and fears.
• Talk about their feelings, ask them how they feel about starting a new school.
• Address any fears and discuss anything that they are worried about regarding their first day of freshman year.
• Share any positive experiences you may have about your high school.
• Reassure them that there is nothing to worry about and tell them what to expect.
• If your child does have any special needs, learning difficulties or struggles with mental health issues, no matter how small, let your child’s school know in advance. Most schools have a counsellor or school nurse that your child can see at any time.
- Pay a visit to the school
Make sure your child goes with you to all the open days, induction days and meetings. Try to meet one of their friends on the day so they can explore and get a feel of the school together.
Induction days are a great way to meet the teachers and other students in a relaxed environment and are a great way to see what the school has to offer.
- Visit the school website.
Have a look at some resources, photos or videos from the school website so they can see first-hand what it’s like and what type of opportunities and education are on offer.
The school website is an excellent way for your child to a familiarise themselves with the school and maybe even do a virtual tour, so they don’t get lost on the first day.
- Write a list of what your child will need.
Sit down with your child and write a list of everything that they will need, like uniform, stationery, lunch boxes and new shoes. You should receive a full list of everything you need to buy from the school. As you buy each item, tick it off the list.
- Read the school rules
Run through the school rules with your child, so that they know precisely what is allowed and what isn’t. Chat with them, so they understand the rules regarding makeup, nails and uniform standards.
- Check out the timetable
Run through the timetable with your child. Show them how to read their schedule and how to check every night that they’ve got the equipment they need for each lesson.
- Explain the differences in expectations between primary and high school
Emphasise to your child that unlike primary school, the teachers in high school will expect them to be self-reliant and to be able to do things for themselves, ask them if they have any concerns they want to discuss.
- Talk about the different subjects
Explain to your child that there will be a lot of new subjects that they will be learning, maybe even new languages.
- Help your child understand time management
Help them with time management skills, discuss what time they will need to get up, shower, leave the house etc.
- Discuss lunches
Chat to your child about lunches.
My daughter’s school has a fingerprint system for school dinners, so the children never have to carry money into school with them.
I add payment via the parent pay app, and they buy their lunch by using their fingerprint.
They also have the choice to have a packed lunch or a school dinner every day so they can chop and change.
My daughter has a packed lunch on the days that she doesn’t have much to carry, and on the days she has sports, she has school dinners. So, these are things you might like to discuss with your child.
I also ran through the school’s lunch menu with my daughter to explain how everything worked. You should receive a copy of the menu in the welcome pack on induction day.
- Talk about friendships
Speak to your child about friendships, explain that they will make lots of new friends and it’s ok if their friends make new friends too. Remind them that they may be in a class full of children from other schools but this is a good thing as will have the opportunity to make lots of new friends too.
- Encourage them to try everything
Chat to them about the opportunities available to them such as school trips, sports, music, drama, all the things they couldn’t do at primary school and middle school. Explain how joining sports teams or drama classes will help them make more friends.
- Prepare them for the induction day
Speak to them about the induction day. Get them to arrange to go with a friend, explain what will happen on the day. Make sure they pack their bag, and they have everything they need for the day.
- Prepare your child for the homework.
Talk to your child about homework, when they should complete it and how to plan to do each piece of work without leaving it all until the deadline.
- Run through travel arrangements
Run through travel arrangements. Whether your child is cycling, walking or catching the bus, talk them through the route, then do a trial run with your child and their friends.
We did a trial run of the route one evening when the roads were quiet. Starting at the furthest away child’s house, we picked up other friends along the route. The mums walked some way behind, while the kids negotiated how to cross the roads on their own. We ended up having a lovely evening and some giggles along the way.
- Allow your child to have a bit more freedom
Start to give your child a little bit more freedom. I started by letting my daughter go into a shop to buy stuff while I waited outside in the car. Then we moved on to allow her to walk ahead to school in the last year of primary. Then gradually in the holidays, we let her meet up with her friends.
It’s challenging when you have to start giving your child more freedom in life, but it’s something they need to learn before starting high school.
- Remind your child about stranger danger
Address stranger danger with your child; it doesn’t need to be a huge deal, just remind them again about not talking to people on the way home, especially people in cars and vans.
You don’t want to worry your child, just a gentle, casual reminder at some point before they start walking on their own.
- Talk to your daughter about starting her period at school
some girls will already have started their periods by the time they get to high school and you will more than likely have chatted to your child about them, however, now is a great time to discuss what to do if your daughter starts her period during lessons. Make a little pack or get a one here to give your daughter to carry in her rucksack, so she has everything she needs for when the time comes.
- Keep things positive and upbeat
Remember to keep everything upbeat and exciting. If your child sees any worry or doubt on your face, they will start to feel anxious and worried too.
Chat about high school throughout the summer holidays and tell them how much you wish you had the opportunities at school that they have today. Big it up as much as you can!
- Chat about feelings
- Go to all open days and meetings with your child
- Discuss all exciting opportunities available
- Make sure they have everything they need such as uniform and stationery
- Run through the school rules
- Ask them what they’d like to do about school lunches
- Discuss friendships
- Speak about the induction day and get them prepared.
- Do a practice route to school.
- Tell them about periods, and what to do, make up a pack.
- Recap about stranger danger
- Give your child a little bit more freedom.
- Be positive and upbeat
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Frequently asked questions
Before you start, your school will provide you will a full list of everything you will need for starting high school. A typical list will contain things like:
• PE kit
In the UK high school typically starts at the beginning of September.
Most children are either 11-year-old or 12 years old when they start high school.
It’s sometimes painful for children to accept that the friends they’ve been with throughout primary school might move on very quickly and make new friends.
Losing friends can be very challenging and can cause upset, so it’s always good to chat with your child about this before they start high school.
It is the perfect time to remind them not to drop their friends and if they see anyone excluded to include them.
My freshman tips would be:
• Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, it’s going to be a long day with lots of walking, so make sure you are comfortable!
• Join as many clubs as you can as this gives you a higher chance of meeting new people. When you start high school basketball, soccer and netball teams are all great places to meet people.
• Get your clothes, lunch and equipment ready the night before you start high school, so you will be organised and not running late in the morning.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Both teachers and students will be able to help you with anything you need. If you feel a bit wobbly or overwhelmed about anything you can always speak to the school nurse or the school Councillor, they are there any time you need them.
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Is your child worrying about starting high school in September? Maybe we can help, drop us a line in the comments!