Big Fish to Little Fish - Transitioning to high school

By Jolanda at Parentline

New school, new teachers, new subjects, new routine, new friends, new uniform… all for a child who is currently experiencing massive developmental change both physically and emotionally. It’s no surprise that the transition to high school can be an unsettling time!

This transition can also be a big shift for parents. There are many ‘this is the last time they will…’ moments when primary school is left behind and, at this age, children are moving into the stage of not wanting their parent to be as visible anymore.

So, what might be some of the feelings and emotions that pop up for our children and how can we best support them during this transitional time, whilst also being mindful of our own feelings and experiences?

During this time, it is important to remember that having mixed feelings about the imminent changes you and your child are going through is really normal. There might be lots of excitement yet, as the start date approaches, this may turn to feelings of concern, fear, worry and anxiety. Just like when starting a new job, it can be a nerve-wracking time. And the feeling of uncertainty may be felt even more acutely this year due to many high school transition programs, parent information sessions and social activities being cancelled in 2020.

When you are going through change or transitions in your life, what helps you the most? The knowledge that you have someone who has your back. Kids are no different. So, this article is a little reminder that what is most important to your child through this transition is…YOU! Have you ever done that team-building exercise where you stand in a circle and the person in the middle has to fall backwards trusting they will be caught?  I believe this is a little like parenting, especially as your child transitions through a change in their lives. You want them to know you are there if they need you. You want them to know that if they fall, you will catch them, and that your hands are there whenever they need them and until they pick themselves up.

Supporting children through such huge milestones can be fun and exciting. It can also be exhausting, tiring and emotionally depleting, especially when our glass may already be half empty. So, for those times when we feel like we don’t have much left in our reserve, find those people that have our back and can help us to refill our cup, through coffee with other parents, laughter with our friends, time with our family or time for ourselves.

What we do know is that when we are supported as parents, our kids do better.

Tips for transitioning to high school

  • During the school holidays, walk/bike/drive past the school. If possible, point out various buildings while looking at the school map.
  • Practise travelling to and from school.
  • Become familiar with school routines such as bell times and timetables.
  • Help your child prepare for school, getting uniforms ready and packing their bag. Having a checklist can be helpful for some children as it provides a sense of organisation and calm.
  • Be positive before and after school, and ask them about their day. For more than one word answers, get creative with your questions: ‘Can you tell me about what you enjoyed most at school today?’
  • Encourage your child to talk about their feelings by asking, ‘How did that make you feel?’

If you need someone to talk to, Parentline is here for you. call for a chat daily on 1300 13 1300 between 8AM-10PM, WebChat 8am-9pm or visit

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