High school is full of everything new. New teachers, classrooms, peers, subjects, lockers, procedures, timetables and expectations, all of which can equate to high anxiety and the inevitable “what if’s”? What if I get lost? What if I don’t make new friends? What if I forget one of my teacher’s names? What if? What if? What if?
The good news is that there are strategies we can put in place to help our kids manage their stress and anxiety during this transition and into the weeks that follow. Share these tips with them and together you can develop an individualised plan to battle those “new school” nerves.
1. Apart from the standard orientation days that will be organised by your primary school, organise extra sessions if you feel they are needed. Some school grounds are also accessible over the weekend/school holidays for that game of basketball or impromptu Sunday morning walk.
2. Discuss travel arrangements with your child and if they are going to take public transport, practise that with them over the holidays. Show them where the school bus stop is and/or show them how to use a Myki card etc. Practise this with them or even better have them practise with a friend that may be travelling with them.
3. Purchase uniforms and books a few weeks in advance so as they can be altered and labelled.
4. Colour code all books, timetable and school map. When purchasing stationery items, colour code them to match your child’s timetable. eg: purchase green exercise books for Math and blue for English and then colour their timetable to match. When they need to grab books from their overflowing locker in between classes, this will make it a lot easier for them to identify which books are needed.
5. Print off and laminate two of your colour coded timetables. One for the inside of their locker and one for home.
6. Print off a copy of the school map and colour code accordingly. Also highlight other areas of interest including the canteen, toilet area and student office or other area that they can go to when they need assistance.
7. Label everything. In a school of 1000+ kids all wearing the same uniform and carrying the same school bag, items can be easily misplaced or lost. Purchase a key tag or other identifying item to attach to their school bag so it can be easily identified.
8. Familiarise yourself, and your child, with the school’s online communication app. Here you will find items such as newsletters, a calendar of events and their timetable with any changes that may occur including staff absences and room changes. This app is also used as a communication portal where you can report your child’s absences and communicate with their teachers.
9. Bring back their bedtime routine and slowly bring the bedtime hour back. If you have been letting your kids stay up later over the holidays bring their bedtime back slowly. Start about 5 days before the return of school and just bring their bedtime back by 15-20 minutes earlier each night and their waking time by the same amount of time each morning until they are back to their normal school time sleep schedule.
10. Don’t leave everything to the last minute! Encourage them to pack their school bag and have their uniforms washed and ready to go a couple of days in advance. If your child has a study area or desk, make sure this is clean and tidy and ready to go also. (Bonus if you can get them to clean their rooms!) Have the school lunch and snack ingredients on hand and ready to go. Watching you rush around and listening to you stress the day before will not ensure a calm transition to school for anyone.
11. Last of all: listen. Listen to their concerns and worries. Don’t dismiss their concerns as trivial and don’t push them aside so as YOU do not have to worry about them. Listen and together, come up with a list of strategies to help them cope. Eg: Breathing exercises, meditation, counselling.
Starting High School can be nerve racking for some whilst others will seem to breeze through the transition, embracing the challenges and changes that come with it. Regardless of your child’s temperament, the abovementioned strategies will help to ensure a smooth start to the new school year for all involved.
For some extra resources please see the following articles:
Managing Tween Stress
30 Mindfulness Activities for Kids and Teens
and the following meditations:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Happy Place Meditation
© copyright. May not be reproduced without acknowledgement to the author. Published by Kim Norton 29th November 2021.