Help your child overcome those high school jitters
Parents of students starting high school this year are being urged to be on the lookout for signs of anxiety.
With tens of thousands of children across Queensland beginning Year 7 this week, parents and carers are encouraged to help them through what can be a daunting transition from primary school to secondary school.
“Some students will handle the adjustment with ease, however others will find it difficult for a variety of reasons,” said Claire Rabaa from Children’s Health Queensland's Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS).
“Many are coming into a new environment and this can raise mixed feelings for children.
“When they start high school, they might feel excited about new friends, subjects and teachers. They may be nervous about learning new routines, making new friends, wearing a new uniform, handling the workload and not fitting in.
“These worries are all normal.
“In addition to beginning a new and important stage of their education, children are experiencing major change and development, including puberty.
“It can be an extremely challenging time.”
Ms Rabaa said children may be struggling with the transition to secondary school if parents and carers notice they are:
- feeling physically sick – for example, vomiting, headaches, or shallow breathing – especially on Sunday nights
- worrying, overthinking and feeling self-conscious, particularly before school
- no interest in going to school or taking part in school-related activities
- a decline in academic performance
- not eating or sleeping well
- seeking constant reassurance and
- changes in behaviour – for example, being more aggressive or more withdrawn/quiet.
“If the child is still showing any of these symptoms three or four weeks after starting high school, parents and carers should consider consulting with their school teacher, year-level coordinator, welfare coordinator or GP,” Ms Rabaa said.
But she said practical steps could be taken to help make the transition less stressful.
“It’s important that children are prepared and feel supported,” Ms Rabaa said.
“Remind your child it is normal to feel nervous about starting something new.
“Other helpful measures include talking with their child about how to introduce themselves and start conversations so they can make friends, and making sure they are familiar with the layout of the school and how to get there. Include them in the decision-making as much as possible.
“When they get home, talk to them about how their first day went, emphasising that high school is a big step and they should be proud of themselves.
“If they appear anxious, encourage them to talk about what’s worrying them and help them manage their feelings.
“Listen and understand, help your child find the adventure in the new.
“And get to know the school – introduce yourself as early as possible.”
Ms Rabaa said parents and carers themselves may also feel anxious about their child beginning high school.
“The child’s adjustment can be nerve-wracking also for their family, especially if they had a challenging or negative experience in high school,” she said.
“Talking about the transition with their child or other parents can be helpful.”
More information on helping your child adjust to high school can be found at https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/blog-tips-for-a-smooth-transition-to-high-school/.
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