September may seem some time away, but it's not too soon to start preparing your child for the transition to secondary school.
National Offers Day focuses every Year 6 child and their parents on new schools: how can you make the most of the coming months to ensure your child is ready for Big School?
Build their confidence
Almost all children, even those who are excited about going to a new school, feel some level of anxiety about the moving to a larger school. A small primary school may have a total of 100 pupils: their secondary school may have 200 children in Year 7. Feeling confident and having high self-esteem will give your child a good start.
Begin now by paying your child a compliment every day. Don't restrict this to academic success; that's important of course, but praise your child for who they are not simply what they achieve.
Compliments can range from being a good friend, being helpful at home, being considerate, keeping their room tidy or doing homework without being nagged. It's easy to focus on what your child doesn't do well, rather than the small, every day achievements. The ideal is five praises for one criticism. Give them responsibility
What small changes can you make at home so that you aren't running around after your child so much and they start being responsible ? If you are the one who always reminds your child to take certain books, musical instruments, or sports kit to school, now is the time to relinquish that role. Suggest they use post-its in their room, or a wipe-off board, or put a reminder in their phone if they have one.
The last thing you need in September is to be dashing to school after your child has forgotten equipment- or them being given detention.
Other responsibilities might include:
• Make their packed lunches (you oversee what they eat.)
• Put their laundry out to be washed.
• Pack their school bag every night – not in the morning.
• Clean their shoes every night or at a weekend.
One of the biggest concerns Year 7 parents have is the journey to school. It's likely your child will have to catch a bus, walk a further distance negotiating busy roads, cycle or catch a train. If you always meet your child after school now, start weaning yourselves off this; allow your child to come home on their own or with friends, as long as there is a safe place to cross roads or a school patrol.
Depending on what your child's journey to school will involve, give them a trial run; it's amazing how many children have never used public transport such as buses and trains.
If your child is ferried everywhere by car even on short distances, encourage them to walk (perhaps you can meet them half way) and become more confident about crossing roads, as long as it is safe, and about being out alone.
You can't control your child's friendships but it's worth trying to encourage them to be friendly with other children who are destined for the same secondary school, especially if your child is one of only two or three children going to a new school.
Similarly, you may be able to encourage your child to be friendly with children they know at out of school clubs who are going to be at the same school. All children easily make new friends, but it can be reassuring to have some familiar faces around for the first week.
What is the routine now? Is it going to work in September when your child has three subjects each night and possibly more after-school clubs? Re-assess it now, how it could be done differently to make life easier for everyone, and implement those changes.
Ask your child what they think would work best; give them responsibility for their learning out of school.
Your options might be a snack when they come home, then half the homework before dinner and the rest after dinner, and all completed by a certain time. If you are positive and enthusiastic about making changes rather than being dictatorial, then there ought to be fewer arguments!
Time for a tutor?
There are some children who would benefit from some extra support before Year 7. If your child finds some aspects of numeracy or literacy hard and you think they are going to struggle, then some short-term tutoring may be all that is needed to close the gap.
An experienced teacher can make a huge difference to your child's confidence and progress with a weekly lesson for a term.
Out of school activities – cull the clubs?
Time to re-think and start preparing to say goodbye by the end of the summer? Out of school activities are beneficial but some children risk being over-loaded with too many.
Once at secondary school your child may be able to join lunchtime clubs in school, or you might find that they can't really cope with so many out of school clubs, a longer day and a lot more homework.
If your child is attending clubs more out of habit then real enthusiasm maybe it's time to stop this summer. Or perhaps you need to suggest they drop one or two and negotiate which.
It's incredibly hard to be positive if your child is disappointed and has not been offered a place at the school they want. Maybe you are appealing against the decision.
In the meantime, do not criticise the school your child may go to. The very last thing you want is for your child to start a new school feeling unhappy and having those feelings reinforced by their parents. Try to see the pros and not just the cons, and talk about them.
It's good to talk
Not only is your child about to start a new school, but their hormones may well be kicking-in at the same time as they enter puberty. He or she may well become a surly teenager but meanwhile this is a good time to start being more communicative with each other and lay the foundations for a good relationship.
Although you probably do talk to your child about their school day already, older children can become less communicative, often because they want to appear grown up and don't want to say if they are worried.
It is worth talking to your child and asking them if there is anything they are worried about; anything connected with secondary school.
Don't fill their heads with negativity, or your own worries, but emphasise that it is normal to be a little anxious and that talking about those anxieties can often help.
More on Parentdish: Child starting secondary school? Tips for parents
The inside track on Year 7 - from older pupils