From primary to secondary school

Stepping out, moving on, and moving up…
…to ‘Big’ School

SO how are the summer holidays shaping up for you? Are you enjoying the change of pace from the tyranny of the school bells, clubs, commutes? 

Have you been away, been pinged, had plans disrupted?

Nature abhors a vacuum, and into the space I had allocated to writing, emerged a family crisis – the recognition that my mother’s care home was struggling to meet her needs, and the need for her to be moved to a more suitable place, once more near to me…the preoccupation of the last two weeks…

How wonderful – on my return from decluttering, packing up my Mum’s shrinking life, and all the emotion around the new change – to come home to an Indian banquet – being prepared by our 11 year old… while my better half finished his working day. Naan bread from scratch. The best Daal I have ever had…and a sumptuous lamb Rogan Josh…

It reminded me vastly of all the tricks I miss when I dive into Mommy mode. For sure, it has been a test of will and inner strength to help her down the years learn the knife skills that are needed to make you a handy person to have in the kitchen…We very very often underestimate our child’s capacity to cope and grow. WE very very often over-estimate the likelihood and impact of things going wrong. And when we do that, we over-parent and under prepare our lovely lovely kids for the world. 

I managed to sit back and enjoy some wine, and watch her at work. Answering the odd question, but refraining from stepping in…

One of the ways to defuse the toxic stress of living with the uncertain is moving in to acceptance and controlling what we can control. Only we need to think about this more carefully when it comes to parenting our growing children. Controlling them, controlling the environment that they will grow in…these are impossibilities.

I want to share with you an article I wrote for Cityparents – as one of their parenting experts. I am proud to have had now a longstanding collaboration with them as a speaker and trainer, and providing material for their parenting hub.

The article – appearing here exclusively to you – and on the Cityparents subscriber hub – is about how to prepare a child who is moving from primary to secondary, or elementary to high school. And of course you can look at it if you too have a child who is on the cusp of that big transition – but school life – just like our children’s growth, is full of developmental clicks and leaps. The milestone moments really focus the concentration.

So whether your child is moving from one key stage to the next, or changing school, or moving up through to college or university…this article will give you some ideas of areas of focus.

It’s not meant as a to-do list. so many wellbeing articles – mine included – give 5, 8, 10 point plans to success. If only you could do them all. Well no one can. But having an idea of the main ball parks helps. And in different weeks, at different times, you will find teachable moments and maybe you’ll tap into some of the thoughts here. 

Cityparents are an award-winning organisation offering tailored, expert-led resources to support parents and professionals in their work and home lives. Available online, and accessible globally from home or the office, our Live and On Demand hubs provide relevant support and information delivered by our carefully chosen Experts whilst our Library provides a rich collection of online resources sharing stories and advice. Aimed at professionals in corporate roles, our positive and practical content covers wellbeing/resilience, parenting/home life, inclusion, workplace and career-related topics, as well dedicated Covid-19 support.

Stepping out, moving on, and moving up…From primary to secondary school.
This is a particularly resonant topic for me this year. As I write this article, our daughter is having her last ever day of primary school. So as a coach, a speaker and trainer in the world of child development, wellbeing and parenting…it’s time to put it all into practice!
What can we do – at the end of this era – and especially in the context of the disruption of the last two academic years, to help prepare our children for the changes that lie ahead…Here’s my plan of action for the summer ahead…

  1. Masses and masses of unstructured opportunity for in-person play with friends – enabling as much imaginative play, negotiation and collaboration as possible. Despite all the narrative about the need to ‘catch up’ academically, restocking the opportunity for growth in their social and emotional development is a number one priority. When they are in a better place to get their relationships right, they feel securer and are more available to learn.
  2. Opportunities to grow agency & responsibility – in and among the joy of freedom and rich recreation – so on-boarding with more serious and meaningful ways to contribute to the running of the family home – stepping up to do ironing, folding and storing clothes properly, dusting, hoovering, tidying the bedroom, planning and making meals alongside and independently. Catch them doing things for other people, celebrate their altruism, and increase the opportunities to express gratitude and appreciate their contributions.
  3. Autonomy and independence – if they are not already competent in travelling alone, to embark on learning skills of orientation, managing money etc – eg doing shopping trips independently with a list of things. Going to more than one shop, meeting up at a designated place and time. Navigating their way from one place to another eg by bus. Learning how to manage the mechanics of their commute.
  4. Reflecting and putting together the ‘narrative’ of the year just past. Some time after the dust has settled on the end of term, to talk through the highs and lows of this extraordinary year – what strengths were revealed through the struggles, what was learned?
  5. Focusing on a sense of purpose and intention – what do they want out of Year 7? What’s their ideal of how they would like it to be? Visualising their challenges, unpacking, expressing and exploring any worries, and making an action plan about what they can do to grow towards those goals – both now in the summer – and beyond.
  6. Talk about their VALUES…stock them up with conversations that help them clarify what they stand for, what they believe in, what they see as being important in their relationships if they are to be healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationships. This is a vital moment to consolidate a lot of their own sense of their identity…before they embark on the homogenization process of adolescent group dynamics.
  7. Plenty of good conversations and check-ins around the puberty scene. There’s a big step up into secondary school with organisation of books, homework, teachers, subjects. Also in the offing is a big step up in terms of the demands of personal hygiene…stinky feet, sweaty pits, greasy hair, blocked pores, bad breath…will they have the right kit…bras etc…Equip and empower them with confidence in their routines before they find themselves on the back foot. Don’t forget to also help them recognise that some of the more sexual feelings they may be having are OK and natural…
  8. Investing some time in being their guide-by-the side with their screens – whether big screens or small. If you’re getting your kid a smartphone do the work on security, acceptable use, monitoring behaviour online…create an agreement with them about boundaries and screen-time. 11+ developmentally they are becoming adolescent. They are curious beings, sexual beings – they have a veneer of sophistication especially as natives in the online realm…However they are still children and what they see can’t be unseen…and they need to know they can come to you whatever happens.
  9. Strengthen their confidence from the inside out by using teachable moments to build their sense of knowing who they are, knowing that they matter, knowing what matters to them, to pay attention to what they feel and what that tells them about what they need. As much as you can, connect / reconnect them with their inner wisdom.
  10. Hang out with them – enjoy their company. Very soon, if it hasn’t happened already, you will be the brussels sprouts (good for them but not what they crave) whilst their friends will be the Haribo…Savour and marinade in the connection you have– let them marinade in what you appreciate and value about them by naming their strengths and unique quirkiness! At the same time, make sure you start pivoting into empowering them to solve their own problems…

So in a nutshell…seize the day! Make use of the more relaxed dynamics of family life during the summer to enjoy, equip, and empower your child as they take this next step into a new beginning!It’s never too early to go for growth – and never too late to make a start…Happy holidays!With love and gratitude…Emma Gleadhill.www.emmagleadhill.comcoachingandtraining@emmagleadhill.comCopyright Emma Gleadhill – all rights reserved –  July 2021

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