RGC Newsletter: Transitions

'The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new.'   --  Socrates

This article was written for parents of teenagers.

For some of you, this is a time of a major transition in your child’s life. The change from primary school to secondary school is significant, and with new and different subjects, interesting CCAs, a variety of enrichment programmes, it is understandable for your child to feel excited yet nervous about it.  As your child settles in after the first few months, the demands of schoolwork and CCA will set in. At the same time, they also have to deal with fitting into different and new social situations like a new class and CCA. It may be a stressful period for your child, but it is definitely also a period that is full of potential. These changes have important implications for your child, as they are moments for personal reflection and are part of the developmental process of growing up and progressing. For those of you with children in Year 2-4, the beginning of the year is a good time to start the foundations right for their new academic year.

As parents, how can we help our children adapt to the new environment in a positive way, and at the same time ensuring they maintain a balanced lifestyle or work, play and relationships with their friends and families?

Here are some tips:


Maintaining open communication

Communication is the key to having a good relationship between you and your child. You can encourage this by maintaining a friendly atmosphere at home. Enjoy fun activities together with your child. Something as simple as watching a comedy movie with your child, or participating in board games or card games together, or going out as a family will build a foundation of positive memories that will last even when he faces difficulties in the future. Display a genuine interest in your child’s life, and be prepared to listen attentively, without interruption to his complaints and requests. Set up a conducive environment for the conversation by removing any distractions (e.g. mobile phones, TV, computer etc.). When talking to your child, be respectful of his thoughts and feelings. Seek out his opinions, and find out more about how he views things from his perspective.  It is important to use more 'I' statements to communicate your feelings, and fewer 'you' statements, to avoid sounding accusatory and putting your child on the defensive. Finally, while it may be tempting to lose your temper when your child is behaving badly, do your best to remain calm and respond without letting negative emotions get in the way. This not only leads to better communication, but also increases his respect of you by providing a good example for him to follow. 

With communication in place, it will easier for you to monitor how your child is coping, and help you to navigate secondary school life together, by reaching consensual solutions to the challenges ahead.

Settling in

As your child settles into his new roles in school, you can help him with the process as well. Giving him praise and encouragement regarding his achievements (e.g. getting selected into his CCA of choice, or getting selected for leadership positions) can mean a lot to him and build up his confidence for other pursuits. Even if he did not get what he wanted, it is important not to belittle his loss. Rather, help him realise that failure is an inherent part of life and that he can use this opportunity to learn how to deal with such instances. Build on his other successes to avoid your child losing confidence after experiencing some setbacks in certain areas. Encourage your child to break his goals into smaller sub-goals so that they can be more manageable. It is important that you and your child have reached an understanding of the priorities in the different periods of secondary school life.  

Trying new things

Sometimes your child may want to try something new in RI, be it a new CCA or an unconventional subject. As parents, it may be tempting to advice against these decisions. At this stage, adolescents are still in the process of experimenting and trying different things out in secondary school to find out more about themselves and their passions in life. Take the time to find out if your child has given enough thought to his decision and understand what led your child to the decision. Raise points that you think your child has missed out and that may only be realised in hindsight, but do not belittle his opinions or try to impose your will upon him. You may offer possible solutions, or alternative choices through a negotiation process, but ensure your child has given his input, as he will be more open to explore a satisfactory compromise.


Sense of Belonging

Having a sense of belonging is not only an important basic human need, but also contributes to a smoother transition into a new environment. Research shows that adolescents gain a sense of belonging in a new school through their friendships with both their old and new friends. Having positive relationships with their peers, feeling a connection with their friends, and being accepted by them is crucial to experiencing a strong sense of belonging1.  It would be helpful to ensure that your child has the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of other students, which will help him to form links with others during this time. As he makes new friends in RI, also remind him not to neglect his friends from primary school, or from his Year 1-2 class, and to spend time and effort to maintain these prior relationships, as they can offer an alternative form of support for your child. 

1 Sancho, M. & Cline, T. (2012). Fostering a sense of belonging and community as children start a new school. Educational and Child Psychology, Vol. 29, pp. 64 – 74.

photos by John Mark Smith and Korney Violin on Unsplash (top and bottom respectively)


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