It is a developmental challenge to start learning at a new school or at the next educational stage. School is no longer a complete unknown for a child (it already has grades 1-3), but it has to face new requirements and new tasks. He has to cope with a new group of friends or face additional duties. Supporting a child on new educational paths is also a challenge for the parent.
The adaptation process concerns not only those who change schools – secondary school students. We must strongly emphasize that it also includes those children who are entering a new stage of education. The fourth-grader starts education not so much in the new one, but certainly in a changed school. He is welcomed by a new tutor and teachers of particular subjects.
In order to meet the new requirements, it has to work even more systematically. The most important change concerns the methods of semi-annual and annual assessment – the certificate will no longer contain a descriptive assessment of what the student has achieved, but a point assessment. Thus, the child begins to assign a different meaning to the assessment process. As you can see, in school realities, a student who enters the second stage of education encounters many surprises.
A teenager who enters a post-primary school is a person at a completely different stage of development. Actually, on the eve of adulthood, with a high need for self-determination, often with a precise vision of further education, but also in a completely new environment, in a group of previously unknown people and with a heavy awareness of the importance of the choices he will have to make. For him, careful accompaniment of the parent is also important.
What can we do to support children in the process of adapting to new educational paths?
- Build a friendly image of the school, share good memories
Through their statements, judgments and references, the parent shapes the image of the school in the eyes of the child. If he himself does not mention his facility well, he thinks about it with dissatisfaction or with a sense of harm – he may, even unintentionally, build an unfriendly image of this place in the eyes of a child. This often strengthens the offspring’s fear of specific elements of everyday school life. A parent who, for example, was reluctant to speak in front of the class, strongly focusing in school memories on his discomfort, may reinforce the child’s fears of speaking, boldly presenting his own arguments and the inevitable social evaluation in this situation. Therefore, it is worth being aware of parental influences in this regard and paying attention to how we describe a new place or a new school situation to a child and how we present the expectations of adults. Of course, one should not go to extremes and present the next stage of secondary education or education solely in terms of merits. Each place has its limitations. However, describing the “new school” in an emotional and questionable way and generalizing fearful generalizations can increase a child’s fears and extend the period of adaptation.
- Encourage learning more about what is happening at school, support your child in making new friends
Especially in large schools, children may feel lost at the next stage of education. At the beginning, they do not always remember which rooms the lessons take place in or what to do when the school ID is lost. Sometimes the child needs only a slight hint from us, sometimes we ourselves need to consult the language and obtain specific information that may be relevant to the child. The scope of support should be adapted to the situation and discreetly withdrawn when it is no longer necessary – let the child enjoy the awareness that he can cope on his own.
Its website is a mine of information about the life of the school – we can learn from it about competitions in which school representatives participated last year, we can also learn about this year’s offer of additional activities (not only educational, but also, for example, sports or art). Reviewing the website together, both the news and the archival tabs, brings your child closer to a new place or new teachers and colleagues and supports them in obtaining specific information. Many schools also keep their profiles on social networks, where they post up-to-date information on school life. Students also set up informal groups there, which are a good place to establish closer acquaintances with new colleagues, often even before the beginning of the school year.
The parent may encourage the child to be active in peer groups other than the class group (colleagues from the school scout team, from the club room, from volunteer groups, participants of school events) and show the value of learning through various situations, not only those resulting from participation in activities mandatory.
- Show your child that you are accompanying him through real presence
The child experiences the acceptance and love of the parents not from the level of verbal promises, but from the level of concrete actions. Although some primary school children are satisfied with the fact that their parents do not show any deeper interest in their situation, one should not succumb to appearances and interpret such behaviors superficially. Nobody wants to feel lonely in their school struggles – regular parent-educator contact, especially at the stage of adaptation, whether via an electronic journal or, which is very important, personal, is a signal for the child that what he / she does time matters to parents.
- However, do not intervene immediately as soon as the child reports a difficulty
If, as parents, we act too quickly and completely remove from the offspring responsibility for coping with a problem (in peer disputes, in educational difficulties), we strengthen the conviction in him that it cannot be effective on its own. The child becomes passive and does not develop specific social competences or what is known as a sense of power. It is not about having the conviction that he is alone with his problem. At the beginning, it is worth supporting them with a conversation, creating a space to look at what is the essence of his anxiety and how the difficulty can be overcome. Only when these solutions turn out to be wrong, and the problem persists, is it worth taking an effective intervention. What develops the child’s skills is the well-balanced accompaniment of the parent – the child is not alone, the adult is nearby, but comes with help when it is needed. The parent can also be a mirror for the child – share their observations, direct their thinking about a given situation, show what is behind the behavior of other people. A friendly conversation with an adult allows the child to organize and self-control his emotions.
Accompanying the child is paradoxically especially important during adolescence, which of course includes the time of entering secondary school. The group of friends becomes the second important mirror in which the young person views himself. Its impacts are of great importance, influencing, among other things, the assessment of one’s own physical and interpersonal attractiveness. In the new school, a teenager looks for ways to appear among his peers, gain their respect and recognition. He wants to belong to a package at all costs and have a group of devoted allies. In his search, especially when entering a new environment, he sometimes makes mistakes and reaches for things that are harmful to him. The parent’s availability takes on a special meaning and the adulthood manifested by the offspring should not confuse us – our suggestions and reasonable accompaniment are still important.
- Assess which of your activities are good for the child in the long term
In the process of adaptation, difficult behaviors may increase. The student uses familiar strategies, not necessarily accepted in a new situation or in a new school. In conflict situations, listen calmly to the teacher or other student and get information from your child. What makes it most difficult to find a good solution is the belief that parental loyalty requires negating the description of the other party to the dispute and removing responsibility from the child and shifting it to an adult, another child, or external circumstances. On the side of the school, finding a solution disrupts the dominant focus on finding the guilty and burdening them with the consequences. Completing the procedures is important, but the most important thing is to identify the causes of the conflict and think about what can be done in the future so that difficult situations do not repeat themselves. If the educational activities end as soon as the consequences are determined by the adults, the child does not actively seek a good solution and does not accept responsibility for changing behavior.
Peaceful parent-teacher-child dialogue is the axis of conflict resolution not only in the adaptation phase, but of course also in all other stages. In an interview with a school employee, the parent can find out how his child functions in the group, and on the other hand – introduce the teacher to the world of the child’s motivation. If we accept that our main goal is to prevent the escalation of a difficult situation and provoke reflection, we will be more effective. As parents, through our expectations and commitment, we can contribute to the culture of such solutions.
If there is such a necessity – use the hints of a pedagogue or a psychologist. The period of a child’s adaptation to a new situation usually lasts several weeks. As parents, let us remember that if this time is particularly turbulent, we can count on the help of school specialists: a pedagogue and a psychologist. Our openness to their suggestions or tips is not evidence of parental incompetence or a child’s permanent mismatch with the requirements of the new school, but of a mature perception of the situation. The vast majority of children, as a last resort, efficiently take on new roles and cope with the demands of new situations, and the difficulties of the adaptation stage are most often successfully mitigated.