Words: Allan Shaw, principal and chief executive, The Knox School
Many children change schools as they move to high school. Those who do not change school but move from one sub-school to another have an advantage in continuity of friendship groups, knowledge of the routines and physical site. That said, much that follows might apply to them and their families.
Establish a positive routine
Every family is different but a routine is vital. Set up what works for your family and stick to it.
Help them organise themselves
Being in the right place, at the right time, with the right books or gear, can be quite a challenge during the first few weeks. Assist with understanding the timetable, packing the school bag the night before, with a copy of their timetable at hand. Assist in understanding the layout of the school as many high schools are bigger than primary schools and involve more student movement to and from classes.
Be there to listen
Keep conversing but do not grill. They may be too tired to talk, so don’t take crankiness as a sign that things aren’t going well. Let them know you are there for them; listen to them and respect their decisions. They will then be more open to accepting your advice.
Nutrition and sleep
They need a nutritious breakfast and lots of healthy food during the day. Brain work uses a lot of energy. The day may have as many of eight lessons and can be long and demanding. Regular routines for sleep uninterrupted by digital devices is critical.
Redraw parental boundaries
Moving to high school is an important symbolic step from childhood into adolescence. It is a big step on a child’s journey to independence, so it’s time to make sure you are letting go a bit more. The influence of peers is going to become more dominant and your position as parents will be challenged. Let them make their case and then explain the reasons for your “yes” or your “no”.
Build a relationship with the school
Get to know the school and your child’s teachers. They know that interested and engaged parents lead to better learning outcomes for students. Take each opportunity to attend information evenings and get involved with the parents’ association.
Take an interest in homework
Developing study habits is the goal that can take time and practice. It’s advisable to check their homework diary each night and encourage them to write their work into it. Conversations about what they’re learning helps to keep you in touch and reinforces its importance in your eyes for them.
Get to know their friends
Making clear that friends are welcome in your house is a great way to get to know who your child is hanging around with. Parent-free zones will be the venue of choice for after-school gatherings but lay down some ground rules if you are both out working all day.
Having your child involved in co-curricular activities is important but make sure they have some downtime. They still need some unstructured time. Creativity tends to stem from boredom.
Keep it in perspective
Sometimes parents think that nothing matters more than high grades.
Keep in mind that learning is now life-long and a child’s health and wellbeing, emotional and physical, must always come first.
Schooling is important; learning to work hard and regularly producing a ‘personal best’ is important. The knowledge base developed is very useful; the critical thinking, public speaking, leadership skills and resilience developed at school are all important.
That said, not all children will shine at school and many who do not still turn out to be outstanding adults.
Encourage them to do their personal best each day and enjoy the learning, whether it be academic learning or learning about who they are and their place in their community.
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