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How to prepare your child for a smooth transition to a new school

The transitions from junior school to middle school and on to senior schools can be tough for students. We have prepared a short guide to make it easier.

NEWS 25 Jan 2024

There are a few big schooling transitions in most young people’s lives — from kindergarten to school and school to university. But what many parents do not know is that the transitions from junior school to middle school, and on to senior school can also be challenging for students.

To offer support and make these transitions easier, it is worth keeping a few things in mind and keeping an open dialogue with your child.

How to support your child through change

Change can be hard for young people, but a supportive parent can make it that much easier. So, it is important, especially for young children, that while things are changing you remain a positive constant in their lives. Stick to old routines, continue to spend quality time together and ensure your child is eating, sleeping and exercising well.

Ask questions about your child’s day, how they are feeling and learn what it is like to be young in today’s world. Stay calm and be present when your child is sharing their highs and lows with you.

If your child is anxious, it could also help to remind them of everything that will stay the same — whether that is their friends or the school grounds. At the same time, frame exciting opportunities to make new friends and gain new experiences. The way you speak can help frame their perspectives and even shape their experiences.

From junior school to middle school

At the age when children transition from junior to middle school they are starting to develop a more advanced sense of identity and may start to develop interests and hobbies. They may be concerned about fitting in at school and start to develop their own opinions (which can be challenging!).

To help your child adapt socially in their new school it is a good idea to let them follow their interests at this age, whether that is after school sports, music or theatre. When children of this age are doing something they are genuinely interested in, it can be easier for them to enjoy time with others.

Academically this can also be a challenging time. Subjects may become more advanced, requiring deeper concentration and more study time outside of school. To support your child through this stage, continue having relaxed conversations with them about how they are finding lessons and do not be afraid to talk to their teachers if you are concerned.

From middle to senior school

Students usually transition from middle to senior school at around age 15. This can be a tough developmental stage for both children and parents as children continue to go through puberty and start demanding more independence. They may struggle with mood swings, want to spend more time with friends and even be embarrassed by their parents.

Academically this may also be a tough transition. Your child will start to realise that their academic results will affect their future prospects, and struggle to balance a blossoming social life with the pressures of school and extracurricular activities. They may develop some anxiety around their exams and school results.

This is a great time to let your child have greater independence but stay involved by showing you genuinely care, asking open-ended questions and setting boundaries. Encourage your child to think deeply about what subjects and extracurricular activities they are interested in as these years of study may start to define their future careers. Your child may not want to communicate with you as much as they used to — if that is the case encourage them to speak to someone they trust at school for advice.

Sorting out practical things

As well as helping your child transition emotionally you can help them with the change in practical ways. That could mean:

  • Ensuring they know who they should speak to at school if they need support and how to get in touch with them
  • Sorting out uniforms, learning materials and locker codes so that your child does not have to worry about these (and so that the change feels real in advance)
  • Helping your child deal with increased workloads practically by arranging study routines and helping them plan their time
  • Showing your child how to switch on and off from work so that they can relax after studying and school (this is particularly important in senior school).

Change can be hard for children but it is also a chance for learning and growth if they are well supported. The Haileybury mantra is ‘Every student matters every day’ and our curriculum encompasses respect, emotional regulation, social skills, cyber safety and child-safe lessons, to help them cope with change and continue to thrive. To find out more about Haileybury’s teaching philosophy, read on here.