Settling in

Starting secondary/post-primary is a huge adjustment, so here’s how you can help your child settle in.

Starting their new school

Once the big day arrives you’ll have no choice but to let them go, however you’re both feeling. At secondary/post-primary school, no one turns up with their parents at the school gate! 

Rather than at primary school where they met their class and teachers on the first day, this time it might take two weeks for them to meet the people they’ll be with for every different subject and find their way around. It’s a period of huge adjustment, but there are some things you can do to help them settle in. 

Allow them to be tired — and hungry!

Your child has gone from being the oldest in the playground, knowing their way around and the routine of school life, to being the youngest. Not only will there be intimidating near-adults in the years above, but they also don’t know where anything is or how it works. They’re probably getting up earlier and they’ll certainly be walking more during the day. They will be both physically and mentally exhausted so they will need you to be at your most understanding and unruffled. You may find they are more hungry than normal too.

Keep their confidence up

Don’t be too concerned if their interests change quickly. Secondary school introduces children to a wide range of subjects from languages to sciences and the arts. An early interest in laboratory experiments may be replaced by a sudden keenness for historical facts and figures. Your child is figuring out who they are and what they’re good at. So, encourage their passions, but allow space for them to change their mind.

Encourage their friendships

Your child will inevitably start talking about children you don’t know. Let your child know they can invite people round for tea or a gaming or movie night, it means you’ll know where they are and get to meet their new friends. Your child may be keen to use social media to keep in touch with friends old and new. Discuss with them how to keep safe and happy online and monitor usage as much as you can. You can learn more about keeping your kids safe online here.

Parent tip!

Keep talking. Accept that you’ll lose them a little bit at this age and, if it’s your eldest child, explain you’ve never done this before so you need them to help you by communicating and telling you how they’re feeling.

Help your child get organised 

Help your child to feel more in control of their new world by ensuring they know what’s happening and when. Encourage them to take responsibility for things and teach them to organise and prioritise. Not only will this be expected at secondary school but it will stand them in good stead for the rest of their life. 

  • Print out and display key dates and timetables somewhere obvious so there aren’t any surprises.
  • Set up a system of boxes, bags and folders to make sure their school things can be stored together. Then they can access what they need quickly and easily, without digging through a huge pile every morning.
  • Create a space where they can do their homework at an agreed time. This doesn’t have to be a desk, anywhere they feel productive and can work distraction-free is fine.
  • Use visual reminders such as a whiteboard, wall planner, post-it notes and to-do lists to help your child visualise and remember tasks and responsibilities.
  • Encourage your child to think about ways they can organise their tasks (difficulty, deadline, how long it will take etc) and discuss how they will stay on track, by using a planner or other reminders. You can download a weekly planner here.
  • Try to practise what you preach and be organised yourself by diarising appointments and making to-do lists.
Parent tip!

Print out a few copies of a pocket-sized timetable and, if you can, laminate it. This way they don’t have to get their planner out just for the timetable. Also, if you can print a bigger copy for their room/​where homework is done, they can easily get their books ready for the next day.