A new school beckons: helping your 11 year old child make the transition to senior school

September every year brings the first glimpses of autumn and the end of the year, with a hint of coolness in the air, and days becoming visibly shorter. As the calendar year starts to draw to a close, however, the academic year begins in earnest, and for those children entering Year 7 in the next few days, it marks a significant shift in their lives. Most secondary schools are larger, busier, fuller places than primary schools. Bells can ring and corridors can fill with people rushing from one place to another. It can be hard to know everyone, or to feel known. Year 7 pupils are young people on the cusp of teenagehood, when the world begins to seem different; and a move to a new place, a new set of relationships, and a new set of dynamics, will most probably accelerate this change. How, then, do you as a parent support your child?

First, remember that your child is still a child. Although a secondary school will expect your child to take charge of him or herself, your child still needs parental back-up on the organisational front, to make sure that everything runs smoothly. In advance, try to get a grip yourself on the practicalities of day-to-day life in school, from uniform to timetable, so that you can remind your child, reassure and check that all is going to plan.

Second, remember that you are still your child’s parent. Your responsibility for your child will continue until at least the age of 18, and almost certainly for much longer than that. Despite what your child may tell you at times, you are still entitled – in fact, morally and legally required – to check the progress that he or she is making, and to intervene if things go off track. With this in mind, build a solid relationship with your child’s school; learn from the outset to whom you should go if there is an issue, or if you want to find out more, and don’t be afraid to do so. Good schools will welcome this with open arms and will want to communicate well with you; after all, we are all in this together with one single aim: to help your child grow up to be the very best he or she can become.

Third, remember that the notion of growing up as a linear process is – quite simply – a myth. Your child will soon hit puberty, and plunge into a cycle which reflects many of the needy traits you will recall from early childhood – age 2-4 – but with the distinct difference that he or she now possesses far better developed communication and cognitive skills. He or she will need the same levels of attention, but from other sources, other adult mentors as well as you, as he or she starts to evolve the skills necessary to function in society, and to carve out a personal niche. Be attuned to this and encourage other mentor relationships.

The start of Year 7 is an exciting time; a waving goodbye to childhood, and a welcoming in of a period of transition that will culminate in the adulthood that your child deserves and to which he or she must aspire. Embrace it all, on behalf of your child.

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