It’s more than a little scary when your child makes the transition from primary 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 4×4’s, you know? When I googled tips for starting high school, it was the stuff you know already as a parent – buy uniform before all the sizes run out; make sure they get a good breakfast; and go to the open day to familiarise them with the layout. You’d think I’d know, having been through the process once already with my eldest. But it never gets easier. By the state of my nerves, 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 these 29 tips for starting secondary school aren’t mine. Instead, this advice comes 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!) At first glance some of these statements might seem flippant, but put yourself in your child’s shoes, and you’ll see why they make sense. And I guarantee they’ll show him how to survive secondary school from more angles than you – as a mere parent – can imagine. Although 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 ex-students
- 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.
- 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! And if you need reassurance that you’re getting it right, read this post on how it feels to be a secondary school mum!