Starting high school is different for different kids. Change has a strange electric charge to it. For some it sparks excitement. For others, it is utterly depleting and leaves them feeling burnt out.

However, kids get through the first week of complicated timetables, getting lost, new faces and a scratchy new uniform. They collapse with exhaustion. The weekend is most welcome. Everybody is still in one piece and the unknown is now…well…it’s known!

Then the reality kicks in. It’s all going to start again on Monday. This is it for the next 6 years. This is high school. So how can we support kids in this major transition in their lives?

Good Things to Let Your Child Know:

  1. Be patient. It won’t feel “normal” at first, but as you learn your way around your new school and get used to the new people and routines, it will.
  2. Think positively. Rather than worrying about what could go wrong this year, think about all the great things that could go right. You have so many new opportunities. You are smart enough. You are good enough. You are enough.
  3. Get involved. Find out which co-curricular activities in the school are in tune with your interests. Joining a team or a group is a good way to meet like-minded people and make new friends.
  4. Keep in touch with your old friends. Old friends are great. They make you feel safe and secure. However, try not to let your old friends get in the way of making new friends. If you are spending all your time communicating, or hanging out, with old friends, you won’t have a chance to welcome all the great new people into your life.
  5. If you’re not sure…ask. Staff are aware that everything is new to you. They won’t mind you asking for help and it’s a lot better than that yucky feeling of being lost or unsure.
  6. Write things down. You will be getting lots and lots of new information from teachers, the IT department, library staff and many other parts of the school. Nobody’s memory is that good. Don’t panic too much though, if it is really important, it will be repeated.
  7. Focus on setting small goals and achieving them. Your goals to start with might be taking the right books to class, working the lock on your locker, or going a whole day without getting lost. Later your goals can be about academic results or leadership, service or co-curricular opportunities. Research shows that if you write down your goals you are more likely to achieve them. I repeat…you are smart enough. You are capable.
  8. Eat properly and sleep properly. Any anxiety you have will be made worse by poor diet and sleep hygiene (Yes…we call it hygiene. Weird!). On the other hand, great sleep and great diet help set you up to be the best you can be. Your brain needs nutrition and rest, so help it out.
  9. Finally…Practice gratitude. The Emmons study shows us that people who practice gratitude every day are 25% happier than those who don’t and they also have less stress, greater resilience and better social relationships. Stating something you are grateful for would be a great way to start and end each day as you transition through this period of life. Maybe do this with whoever picks you up or drops you off to school, or quietly to yourself on the bus.

However your child reacts to change, starting high school is a big deal for them…and for you. Take the time to enjoy it. Photograph it. Smile. This is one of life’s big moments.


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Linda Stade has worked in various teaching and management roles in education for twenty-five years. She has worked in government and private schools, country and city, single sex and co-ed. Currently she is the Research Officer at Santa Maria College, Western Australia.

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