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Supporting Your Kid’s Transition to High School


Transition to high school can bring mixed emotions. For some it is a time of great excitement with bountiful opportunities to be explored and a fresh start in a new learning environment. For others it’s a time of anxiety. The great unknown of high school can bring with it its own set of fears.

When we refer to transition, we mean the annual phenomenon whereby we take students from a primary school environment, an environment that is well known to them and expectations are clearly understood, where they are the ‘top dogs’ of the school yard, and where the teacher-student relationship is close. The learning space in the primary school is their own and they have significant freedom in moving around that space. In general terms, a primary school is smaller in size and close to home. For most students in Year 6, they are viewed by others in the school community as being the most responsible students at the school and they regularly rise up to meet these challenges and expectations.

After six weeks of holidays, these same students arrive in a much larger high school environment. For new Year 7 students the layout of the high school is much more complex, and students must navigate their way around a larger area to find classrooms. It can seem as though there is a revolving door of teachers and it may feel as though they have regressed to being ‘the babies’ of the school once more.

It is important to be aware of the aspects of transition that students are most concerned about. They fall into three main areas.

  • Relationships – making and losing friends, not fitting in and working out where they fit in the bigger group.
  • Academic work – keeping up with the workload, amount of homework and assessments, and the number of teachers and different teaching styles.
  • Being organised – having the right books and materials, getting lost, wearing the right uniform on the right day, lockers, being late to class and getting on the right bus.

However, transition is associated with adolescence. Yes, puberty. It occurs simultaneously with the transition to high school. Students not only deal with the observable physical changes – acne, body hair and rapid growth, but they are searching for a sense of self as well as group identity. Adolescents often feel uneasy and awkward and feel pressured to behave in ways that are socially acceptable for their peers – not always positive ones. They are subject to mood swings, bullying and changing their mind – often.

Students entering high school are developing their capacity to make decisions which affect themselves and others. Their growth and development is increasing more rapidly than at any other time in their life other than infancy. It is exhausting to be an adolescent. They are so pre-occupied with finding their place in the world that it is surprising that they have time for learning at all. But learn they must.

Parents, families and caregivers can be a great support for students before and during transition to high school. Here are some useful tips.


  • Attend information sessions, open school nights and orientation days. The more familiar students (and parents) are about the physical layout of the high school, timetables and expectations, the more comfortable everyone will be in the lead up period to starting Year 7.
  • Talk to your child about their feelings and anxieties. It is beneficial if they can identify what they are feeling and why. Don’t try and fix their problems but talk through strategies that will empower them to problem solve for themselves.
  • Discuss the changing nature of friendships, the benefits of expanding their social circle and staying in touch with friends attending different high schools.


  • Keep up-to-date with what is happening at the school. Introduce yourself to the homeform teacher.
  • Support your child in staying organised. Planning ahead to keep track of deadlines and events so that there is no last-minute rush and panic. Play a support role not the lead.
  • Good nutrition, exercise and plenty of sleep are essential. Remember teenagers are growing rapidly at this stage of their life. You can read why it’s so important to keep your child active here.
  • Encourage them to participate in co-curricular activities. Co-curricular activities strengthen their sense of belonging, helping them to identify a sense of self and group identity.
  • Adolescence and transition can feel like you’re riding a roller coaster. Stay calm and be clear about your expectations. Teenagers need boundaries so don’t be afraid to set them.