10 Tips for starting High School

tips for starting high school

Starting high school is a huge step for both children and parents, and can be a big adjustment with a whole new system to learn. When a North Shore Mum posted in our Facebook group asking for advice about her son starting Year 7, she received some excellent and well-thought-out advice. Discover the best tips and advice for starting high school from a mum and long-time member whose son has just finished Year 7.

I am a mother of two boys, and will be a first time high school mum this year as my son going to year 7. I am excited and nervous at the same time. What one piece or more of advice you have for me? What to expect? What after school activities they are doing? What to look out for? Anything in general will be really appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Tips for starting High School

1. Keep extracurricular activities to a minimum

Consider choosing one activity that they really love – like a sport or music – but otherwise don’t over-schedule in those first several months. There’s a lot to take in when you are getting settled into high school, so they need some space to just ‘be’.

‘Spend a term getting to know your high school before you leap into too many things. This includes at-school activities and your usual after-school activities. Learning a whole new school is going to be tiring.’ – Sylvia

‘We didn’t do any extra-curricular this year so he could adjust to the mental changes in format, times and locations of his classes etc.’ – Mel

2. Talk to parents with slightly older children at the school

Before starting high school, try to find a few parents who have kids going into Year 8 or 9, as they will have the most current information about how to navigate the school from the “fairly new to high school, too” parent perspective. Very local Facebook groups (like community pages) are a good place to make such contacts if you don’t already have some of your own. It can take a little time to get into the rhythm of regularly checking the school’s parent portal and keeping track of everything. You can learn a lot from local parents whose kids are a tad older!

3. Encourage them to get organised at home

Help your child find one dedicated spot where they put everything after school. It’s easy for things to “go missing”. Encourage them to use their mobile to photograph things like assessment notifications or important notes. That way, if they misplace the paper (which can be a common occurrence with Year 7 students), there will be a record of it.

Also, encourage your child to lay out all their stuff the night before, so they won’t be scrambling to find their school shoes or history notebook the next morning.

4. Buy a giant calendar to stay organised

To get super organised for high school, buy one of those wall calendars at Officeworks – the really big ones. Encourage your child to write down their major assignments on it (as well as in their diary) or other notable things – that way, you have some sense of what’s going on. There will likely be a few times in the year when your Year 7 child will be juggling multiple tests and projects. It will be helpful for you both to see what an actual week or month looks like.

When they get assignments, write them on the family calendar.  Have them read the notification with YOU and underline the key things they need to do. Before they submit, re-read the notification AND the marking criteria with them, and have them check their work – do they have everything they need?‘ – Constance

5. Schedule appointments in advance

If your child sees certain professionals regularly (e.g. orthodontist, allergist), see if you can book some of those appointments now for the coming months in order to get the prime time slots. Some high schools really discourage kids from missing a lot of school time for more routine appointments, and those coveted early morning and right-after-school afternoon slots tend to disappear quickly! But also don’t stress too much if you have to take him out once in a while for an appointment.

6. Talk to them about mobile phone usage

High schoolers use their phones a lot. Lots of text chats and stuff. Without sounding overbearing, talk to your child about how to avoid certain “traps” – for instance, reminding them to talk things out with a friend/classmate in person if there’s an issue rather than arguing via text (which rarely ends well). It’s one of those important tips for starting high school. Don’t take or share compromising pictures. Don’t mock anyone. It can be fun and liberating for high school students to connect via mobiles, but there can be a downside – especially when kids are young and still finding their way.

7. Don’t put pressure on them about grades

Do encourage them to put in a good effort in the classroom and to be respectful of their teachers and classmates but resist the temptation to get caught up in grades and rankings. There’s enough pressure on kids these days as it is. It’s a six-year journey and it’s important that they don’t burn out or tie their self-worth to a class rank. No one is ever going to ask them what grades they earned in Year 7 when they apply for a job. It’s more important that their love of learning continues to be nurtured.

8. Encourage them to reach out to teachers with questions

Throughout high school, encourage your child to remain in touch with their teachers and ask questions if they have them (most teachers are reachable via Google Classroom or other means). Most schools offer homework clubs and other assistance – it’s great to encourage your child to tap into those opportunities if they need support. 

Remind him that it’s okay to need support, too!

9. Reach out to Year Coordinators

Year Coordinators/House Leaders at high school are fountains of wisdom! They can be amazing resources in terms of helping students navigate challenges and new situations. Encourage your child to develop a relationship with them.

10. Take the occasional mental health day

Year 7 can be a lot to take in. Let your child take a periodic mental health day if they need one.

Good luck to all of the families navigating this exciting (and often daunting) new chapter! Hopefully these tips for starting high school help.

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