It’s more than a little scary sending your child off to secondary school. My smallest boy started last week, and I don’t mind admitting that I am still making him text me when he gets there. It’s all those 4x4’s, you know? The questions in the new parents’ Facebook group have been thick and fast all week, illustrating that I’m far from alone in my maternal angst. And you’d think I’d know better, having been through the process once already with my eldest. But no. Seriously, judging by my fretful hovering, I might as well have put him on a rush hour tube train into the city in his little suit, with nothing more than a packed lunch and a door key.

Which is why I’m not giving you 29 tips for starting secondary school. Instead, these pieces of essential school wisdom come from my two fully grown nephews, who’ve been there, got the t-shirt, and come soundly through the other side. (But who can still remember what it felt like!) As his mum, I’d like to add “Brush your teeth” to the list, but I suspect I’d get the eyeroll from all three of them…

29 tips for starting secondary school, from those who’ve been there

  • Do what you want.
  • And work hard at it.
  • Don’t take any advice unless you already knew it.
  • Have fun.
  • Don’t be a dick.
  • Collaboration is always better than isolation.
  • Find out who the cool kids are, and avoid them.
  • You are exactly as cool as you need to be.
  • Don’t take drugs; especially the legal ones.
  • The most important things you will learn are how to learn, and social skills.
  • Work hard, play hard, laze hard.
  • Go to bed early, stay up late.
  • Give it some thought, then get on with it.
  • Over prepare, then go with the flow.
  • Question everything, don’t be afraid, get stuff wrong on purpose (and by accident).

Find a balance between:

  • Seeking out new experiences, and enjoying what you have;
  • Being rational, but also interesting;
  • Doing the right thing, and doing whatever;
  • Caring, and living (hard);
  • Health, and danger;
  • Drinking tea, and writing something;
  • Helping, and interfering;
  • Self awareness, and self consciousness;
  • What’s cool for 5 minutes, and what’s always been cool;
  • Art, and science (they’re the same thing, by the way);
  • One thing, and another.

And finally…

  • Make new friends, because you will keep some of these people in your life forever.
  • Don’t worry about “your career”, or “getting a well paid job”; by the time you’re old enough, it all be done by robots anyway.
  • Instead, be human; it’s irreplaceable. Or maybe not, but either way don’t worry about it. Or anything.

As his mum, I know that if he does all of this, he’ll make his way successfully through school, and only be in trouble with me a minority of the time. Which, at the end of the day, counts as a win. So I’m telling him to go with it. As your friend I’ll only give you this advice: grit your teeth and look happy, listen more than you talk, and let him get some consequences – it’s how they learn!

What would you add?



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