Many children have anxiety with the beginning of a new school year. Although this anxiety can exist when children are continuing in the same environment and simply moving on to the next grade, this jump can be even bigger for those moving from primary or middle school onto high school. This transition time can be nerve wrecking for some teens, and it can be much easier to navigate when parents have an idea of what their children are facing.
In addition to the top-dog phenomenon, where children go from being in the top position in primary or middle school where they were the oldest, biggest and most powerful students in the school – to the lowest position where they are the youngest, smallest and least powerful students in the school, they are generally going through three categories of changes: physical, cognitive and social changes.
During transition years the physical changes that occur as a result of puberty come hand in hand with emotion factors. You may find that your child is more moody or irritable than usual which can sometimes make social changes even more challenging.
Cognitive changes relate to the way that your adolescent is thinking. As your child matures, so will their thought process. They will become more strategic in their thinking and environmental factors such as culture and technology will have an effect on the way they think and make decisions. Nevertheless, they will still need support when it comes to decision making. It’s at this time that a balance needs to be struck between giving your child more decision making responsibility and being there to continue to guide them on the right path.
The final category, social changes, is where the top dog phenomenon fits. With transitioning to high school often comes the transition of friends. Your child will cross paths with many new people and you may notice that their friend groups begin to expand or change. During this time adolescents may start to battle with their own self-image. Some may try to fit in with the ‘in’ crowd, so be sure to speak to your child about peer pressure and how to make sound decisions.
So how can you help your children through this important transition time? Keep these five tips in mind.
1. Communication. Take the time to sit down and discuss clear expectations that they have for themselves and that you have for them. Keep the lines of communication open with your teen. This will not always be easy, but it is important that your teen knows that you are there for them.
2. Organization: Help your child get organized prior to starting school. Make sure that they have all the necessary supplies and that their agenda, notebooks and binders are set up for success. Help them set up the type of home working space that will allow them to stay on top of their homework and assignments. After the first few weeks of school, they will have an idea of what to expect in each of their classes. This would be a great time to help them organize a study schedule.
3. Goal Setting: Once you have discussed expectations and organization, work together with your teen to write realistic and achievable goals for the term and focus on clear actions that need to be done in order to reach these goals.
4. Healthy Lifestyles: Adequate sleep, proper nutrition and exercise are three building blocks to personal success. Be sure to have open dialogues with your child in these three areas and encourage them to include exercise, healthy eating and enough sleep as part of their daily routines.
5. Balance: As parents we often focus most on academics, but do remember that our teens benefit from balanced living as well. Whether it is basketball practice, youth group, or time out with friends, do acknowledge the importance of these activities which also help your young teen become well rounded.
All the best in the new academic year!