Preparing Tweens for the Transition to Secondary/High School

Did you know that the transition to secondary school is considered to be one of the most stressful life event for children? There are many things that you can do to help to prepare your tween though, so that they feel as calm and excited as possible about starting – and the earlier you start the better!

The following is a short extract from BETWEEN, my book for parents of 8-13 year olds:

“Whatever worries tweens may have about the transition to a new school, the two most important responses from parents and carers are, firstly, to listen and, secondly, to empower them to cope with their concerns. The following tips can help with the latter:

• Reassure your tween that all new starters will have worries, even those who look cool, calm and collected on the outside. Help them to understand that a degree of apprehension is totally normal with such a big transition ahead of them.
• Give your child a little notebook and suggest that they write down any concerns or questions they have. You can check on their questions every couple of days – or
daily, if you think that would be better – and if you don’t know the answers immediately, promise you will find out for them as soon as you can.
• Even if the school is running settling-in sessions, ask if you can have a video tour of the building, or at least some photos of your child’s new form room and form tutor. Familiarising themselves with these before the beginning of term can help them to feel more comfortable when they start.
• Do let your tween’s form tutor and whoever is responsible for student wellbeing know if they are feeling very anxious before starting. Often, schools have special settling-in procedures for tweens who they think will struggle.
• Try to buy any uniform needed several weeks before the start of term, so that your tween can wear it around the house, including new shoes (blisters in the first week aren’t fun). If they must wear a tie as part of their new uniform, keep practising at home until they are a pro at tying it.
• See if you can find other new starters and arrange a lunch date with them before term begins, as soon as Covid restrictions allow. Local social-media groups are good for linking up with other parents.
• Make sure your tween knows where to go and who to ask for help at school if they are lost or feeling out of their depth. Also, check that they know what to do if they feel ill or are in pain (including period pain) while at school. Usually, this will be a visit to the school nurse’s office.
• Try to focus on the positives. Ask your tween what they are most looking forward to about starting their new school. Speak about the new opportunities they will have and the activities they love. You could also find out what lunchtime and after-school clubs will be running and share the list with your tween, to build excitement.
• Try to get hold of a map of the school before they start, so they can familiarise themselves with the entrance, their form, the school hall, the canteen and the toilets.
• Do a couple of practice runs of their school journey, especially if your tween will be using public transport or walking.
• Try to get them as organised as possible before starting, checking that they have the right stationery and equipment packed in their bag, so that everything they need will be to hand.
• Give them some coping mechanisms for when things feel a little too much (the tips in Chapter 5 will help).”

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds. Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world


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Published by SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.

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