Five Ways to Prepare your Child for High School (and other transitions) from a Principal’s Perspective

By Principal Judy, Intake Coordinator at Teachers on Call

Posted in Featured, Local, Parent Education Resources, Tips & Advice

Five Ways to Prepare your Child for High School (and other transitions) from a Principal’s Perspective

Transitioning to a new school represents a major educational milestone for students (and the adults who love them). From our professional experience, this can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming for families when faced with the uncertainty of a new school. Not to worry, we have you covered. After all, the Teachers on Call team of in-person and online tutors are educators who teach in elementary, middle and high-schools, so we have many strategies to help students succeed.  We are also fortunate to have the expertise of Vice-Principal and Principal administrators on our intake team, and this includes our very own Principal Judy. She has prepared a list of ways to ensure a smooth school transition, so read on!

Changing from elementary to middle school, middle to high school, or high school to post secondary education, requires families to make major adjustments. If you have a child who will be experiencing a school transition soon, this blog is for you. Here are five ways you can prepare your child to make the change less daunting.

Research the new school ahead of time.

A big reason people feel stress is entering unknown situations. If you can do some pre-planning, your child’s stress can be reduced. Do your research online. There are many pieces of information that you and your child can explore together so that you build familiarity with the new place. Visit their website, see what supports are available, look at pictures and read about the school.  For post secondary, you need to start this journey at least a year in advance. Feel free to check out my previous blog on helping students plan for post-secondary.  

Once you know where your child is going, arrange a visit during a quiet time. Most middle and high schools will have introductory sessions, but there will be a lot of students there, and it can be overwhelming. Go to an open house or a parent night and introduce them to some of the key people in their lives at this next school (e.g., administrators, guidance counselors, special education teachers, etc.). At the post secondary level, there will be open house weeks, as well as forums and fairs they can visit.

Don’t forget to speak positively about the change coming, as your words and actions matter. 

Compare and contrast what is different between the types of schools.

There are many differences between elementary, middle, high school and post secondary education.  Helping your child understand these changes in advance can reduce stress and help them see the differences that are coming. In primary, students generally have one homeroom teacher (with some other teachers coming into their class for specialize instruction).  In middle and high school, they will have many different teachers and will generally go to the teacher’s classroom for instruction.  As well, high schools generally run on semesters (Covid notwithstanding!) where students take four subjects from September to January and a different four subjects from February to June.  Taking only four subjects at a time is helpful from a time management perspective, but students will need to be prepared for the higher standards and homework expectations of high school.  As well, class sizes are different in high school – depending on which subjects they are taking.

Finally, students inherently know that there is much more at stake in high school. They must achieve a passing grade in order to get the credit and they must get 30 credits in order to graduate.  Add in that they need to achieve at a significant level in order to be eligible for post secondary, and it is understandable why students (and parents) are stressed.  Having an in-person or online tutor to support them can go a long way to help ensure they are able to put their best foot forward and support them in being successful. Read this Teachers on Call student success story here.

Focus on the steps – getting eight credits in grade nine is a significant determiner of a student’s academic success in high school. There is significant research on this topic. So, keep the focus narrowed to grade nine – this also means choosing the right level of study and courses for your child.  Listen to their grade 8 teacher and the principal’s recommendations. It is more important that your child has immediate success in high school. Pathways can change, but making up credits is significantly more difficult.

Honour the past by celebrating graduation milestones.

Don’t forget to value what they are doing this year!  Sometimes, we get so caught up in where they are going next, we forget to celebrate their present. Find ways to capture the memories of the final year of elementary, middle or high school.  Help your child decide what they want to catalogue and remember – is it friendships? Teams? Clubs? Special events? Find ways to celebrate this current year, while you help prepare them for the changes which are coming.

Pay attention to changes in your child.

Moving to middle or high school, as we’ve discussed, is a stressful time.  Add in the hormonal, physical, mental, and emotional changes of becoming a pre-teen, teen and young adult, and you have an interesting recipe.  Educate yourself on the changes. There are many great resources online and here’s just one on children’s health from Stanford Medicine.

Notice also that there will be friendship changes. As children grow and mature, there are often changes in the groups they want to be with. Be sure to pay attention to these changes. Get to know their friends and the groups they are associating with. Spend time with your child discussing any positive or negative aspects of the groups and how they can maintain their individuality while still supporting friendships.

Pay attention to mental health issues which may arise. Having an open relationship with your child – and being willing to involved guidance or private resources – will demonstrate your willingness to support them.

Create strong building blocks for success in school.

The key building blocks to success in middle and high school, as well as post secondary education are similar to the skills we need to be successful in life.  Continue to work on building self esteem, self confidence, and self advocacy. Developing your child's study skills will help them be successful.  Encourage them to be engaged in the school beyond the classroom – this can be in teams, clubs, activities or anything they feel comfortable doing.  Encourage them to increase their independence.  Work with them on managing stress, navigating difficulties, talking to teachers and other adults. Don’t try to solve their problems for them – work with them to help them develop the self advocacy skills to problem solve for themselves – this will be an excellent long term life skill.

As a parent and caregiver, there are many ways for you to continue to be involved in their schooling. Volunteer at the school, attend all parent/teacher interviews, become part of the School Parent Council, look at joining the Parent Involvement Committee, attend open houses, team sports and other events.  This allows you to not only be involved in your child’s schooling, but it allows you to model the behaviour you want them to engage in.

In the end, as with many changes and much of parenting, it is about being there for your child.  Being present and involved, being open to hearing their concerns, and being involved with them in finding solutions (instead of just telling them what to do) will help build the resilience they need to find success at their next level of education.

We hope this information is helpful to your family in adapting to this major school change. As always, our team of in-person and online tutors at Teachers on Call is here to assist with academic coaching and support with executive functioning skills to ensure the school transition is smooth and successful.

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