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Navigating the Transition from Primary to High School

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

In Australia, the majority of children make the transition to high school at around 12 years of age. Every child’s shift is unique, and some may find it easier to adapt compared to others. The lack of familiarity with the new school environment, teachers, friends, schoolwork and routine can make children apprehensive. That being said, there are many things parents can do to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Empathising with your child

Children can be overwhelmed by the sudden change of the shift to a high school. They move from being the oldest children in primary school to the youngest children in high school.

If your child has any questions or concerns, reassure them and build their confidence. Try to avoid general statements such as “Don’t worry, everything will be fine”. Instead, sit down with them and discuss realistic topics such as school expectations, peer pressure, bullying, and the media. According to research, communication between parents and children contributes significantly to creating a fair and effective relationship, as well as building self-esteem in children. Your child is more likely to share aspects of their life with you if they trust you. Building a strong foundation early on will ensure your child has a strong connection with you as they get older.

Attend the school orientation and prepare in advance

Most schools schedule an ‘open day’ where the school and classroom is accessible to the general public. This is a great opportunity to see what facilities the school offers and ask any questions you may have. As parents, it is important to be enthusiastic and take an interest in the new school, so children feel valued and comforted in this new milestone in their life.

High schools also usually host an orientation during term 4, where children can visit the school and familiarise themselves with the new environment. Children are given the opportunity to trial uniforms and meet their new peers and teachers. Giving children exposure is reassuring, as they will feel more confident and settled.

The NSW Department of Education also provides a checklist for parents to ease the transition.

Give children more responsibility

Don’t forget to involve children in the preparation process too! You can read the high school’s newsletter together, visit the school’s website and go shopping for new stationery and school supplies. Also, a reminder for parents not to buy uniforms too early. If your child goes through a growth spurt during summer, the uniform might not fit them after the holidays, causing extra stress on the first day.

Starting high school also comes with many expectations, such as taking care of a locker, more homework, following a set timetable and moving to different classrooms throughout the day. You can discuss these things with children beforehand to reduce the apprehension and make it less overwhelming.

Encouraging children to be involved in extracurricular activities

Motivating children to participate in extra curricular activities or hobbies can greatly impact children’s well-being. Building a social network outside of school is important because when children have friends in different groups and places, it takes the pressure and focus off their school relationships. Additionally, if your child struggles with self-esteem and confidence, exposure to these activities can help them discover that they’re good at something outside the classroom. A great activity worth trying is meditation, which helps children control their anxiety and build self-confidence.

A successful transition will ensure your child feels more confident and motivated in their new school environment and have a more positive attitude towards high school, which in turn will always lead to better results in the long run. For additional information, you can download this detailed document provided by the NSW, to support your child through this time.

For more information, the NSW Department of education has put together this booklet: