The first day of school is usually a stressful occasion after a slow, chilled-out summer, but if your child is starting secondary school, it can bring a brand new set of extra challenges.
Here are some tips for helping your child with every aspect of moving from primary to secondary:
Take your child's worries seriously. Encourage them to share anything that is bothering them about the upcoming transition. Don't just reassure them – work with them to talk through any issues and come up with solutions.
Ask what they're looking forward to, as well, and focus on the positives. This will build their confidence to adjust to life in secondary school, which may be far bigger than their primary school.
For the first time your child will need to organise themselves. Most secondary schools will give new Year 7s a settling-in period to adjust to the new expectations placed on them, but after that they can expect detentions for repeated absent-mindedness when it comes to handing in homework etc.
For an 11-year-old with no experience of taking responsibility for themselves, this can come as a shock ("It's not fair!"), so ease them in during the holidays – even small tasks like putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket rather than on their bedroom floor can help them prepare.
When the school term starts, getting them to pack their own lunches (parentally approved, of course) or lay out their uniform before going to bed should have a knock-on effect – hopefully, there'll be fewer forgotten forms/PE kits and less need for endless prompting.
Even so, it's worth being realistic – things will get forgotten, lost or irreparably mauled in the course of playground antics. Get a copy of their locker key made, and buy more spare socks and shirts than you could possibly think necessary.
Label everything – if you're lucky, those trainers might just turn up again.
Is your child shy? Are they worried (or are you?) about being able to make new friends? If you think your child may struggle, you can gently give them pointers about smiling at others, making eye contact, being a good listener and looking for common interests.
If your child is more confident, you can still have this conversation. Remind them of the importance of listening and not dominating a group if this has been a problem in the past. Encourage them to help shyer classmates by chatting to someone who looks lonely.
Plan the school journey. If you live close to primary school, your child may be used to walking on their own already. But if you are still meeting them at the gate, or if the new school requires a bus ride, your child may be worried or confused about their new school journey.
Tackling public transport on a busy morning can be daunting for adults, so for adolescents it can be a nerve-wracking prospect (even if they would rather watch their dad disco dancing than admit it).
If that's the case, you can do a 'trial run' of the trip together, to work out how the journey will go and how long it is likely to take.
Make sure your child has your phone number memorised in case of emergencies (schools may not allow phones to be brought in).
If necessary, you can provide them with a small amount of money in case things ever go wrong (lost bus pass, for instance), but be prepared for the reality that they will almost-inevitably end up sneakily frittering most of it away on sweets.
Most of all, try not to worry! That might be impossible, but showing your (very natural) anxieties can be contagious. Reassure yourself that once you've done everything you can to prepare him or her, your child should be ready to slot into their new school life hassle-free.
More on Parentdish
Starting secondary school
How parents can help children make an easy transition
Preparing your child for travelling to secondary school