By Rachel Hynes.
It’s not just kids who have to navigate the transition from primary school to starting high school. Parents may also experience difficulties as their role changes and they feel shut out of their child’s education.
In primary school, there are many ways for parents to be involved in their child’s schooling: reading groups, canteen, P&C or P&F committees, fund-raising activities, excursion assistants, teacher’s aides. Schools, and often our children, encourage us to support them with as much time as we can offer.
But Angie Wilcock, expert and speaker on transitions in education, explains that parents with children starting high school will notice a change in perspective, reflecting a more ‘hands off’ approach.
“Parental involvement with your child’s education long-term is critical to achievement and a positive outlook on life-long learning”
“Yes, there are still opportunities to be involved within the school itself, such as parent committees, canteen assistants, school councils or advisory boards,” says Angie. “But many parents suddenly find themselves feeling more like ‘onlookers’ than ‘participants’ in their child’s education.”
Parents “lose confidence”
Through her business High Hopes Educational Services, Angie delivers talks on this issue to parents around Australia. She often asks the question: “Why is it that once our kids reach secondary school, we lose our confidence and much of our involvement?”
The responses are nearly always the same:
- “Because our kids tell us they don’t want us around“
- “Because we want our kids to grow up and think for themselves“
- “Because we feel comfortable in primary, but secondary school is so different now!”
Angie is adamant that regardless of what your children tell you, they do need you, albeit differently to when they were in primary school.
“Parents with children starting high school clearly need a more subtle approach, but research is quite clear on this – parental involvement with your child’s education long-term is critical to achievement and a positive outlook on life-long learning.”
What can parents do to stay involved when their child is starting high school?
Angie says that even though the days of our children recounting every incident that has happened in their daily lives are probably over – perhaps replaced by a monosyllabic, adolescent grunt – we need to find other ways to tap in.
“This transition phase between primary and secondary school is associated with huge social, emotional, cognitive and developmental change. Sometimes it will feel that we don’t know our children at all,” she says. “The brain development that occurs during this phase is massive and the swings in behaviour and moods can be confusing for parents.”
But Angie urges parents to not underestimate how tough it is for our kids as well. “The more you understand about these changes, the better you will understand the behaviour. But equally important is the establishment of consistent boundaries and consequences for inappropriate behaviour.”
So, how can parents be ‘participants’ in their child’s education … without making it too obvious?
- Help them learn organisation strategies. You need to think about a filing and storage system for all the study notes, summaries, assignments, research tasks etc that will be given to your child in high school. A colour-coded folder system works well.
- Help them develop planning and time management skills. Breaking a large (and apparently boring!) assignment or homework task into smaller, achievable and more manageable ‘chunks’ is the way to go.
- Enforce downtime. Don’t wait until your child is so tired and stressed by homework that you make a decision to reduce the number of extra activities happening each afternoon. ‘Chill’ time works wonders for the whole family.
- Monitor how they are coping. Don’t wait until your child becomes so overwhelmed by the expectations of others that you decide to act. Encourage your child to use a planner and put it where they can SEE it. Make a copy of their work commitments for yourself so that you can monitor how they are coping.
The bottom line is, never underestimate your worth as a parent. “Regardless of your personal or academic achievements, you have reached parenthood,” says Angie. ” You have information, knowledge, advice and support to share with your kids – no matter their age.”
Do you have a child soon to start high school? What are you concerned about, if anything?
Or if you have a child already in high school, did you experience a change in your role? What tips do you have for other parents?
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