The teenage years are full of many transitions and changes and in the coming months many young people will be making one of the most important transitions of their young life; that of moving from primary to secondary school. Traditionally, this important time, symbolised the transition from childhood to adulthood, as young people left behind the safety and security of primary school to embark on an adventure into the unfamiliar and unknown territory of secondary school.
In the transition to secondary school workshops which I run with 6th class students, the children will talk about experiencing a mix of emotions about starting secondary school. They say there are many things they are looking forward to, topping the list here is getting a locker, as well as having some concerns around starting a new school (for some, the worry of not getting a locker!!).
Although many young people will transfer with their friends from a primary to a secondary school in their catchment area, others move to schools outside their area and have to come to terms with a new social environment. For these students they often experience feelings of sadness and fear around the possibility of losing the friends they had in primary school. Acknowledging these feelings and talking to them about friendships can be helpful at this time.
Letting them know that there are still ways of staying in touch with old friends, especially in this digital age of social networking, as well as talking about secondary school as a new and exciting place with lots of new people to make friends with, can be reassuring.
Another common experience for many young people, in particular girls, is dealing with changing friendships. Many start secondary school and are relieved and delighted to learn that they are in the same classes as their BFF. They have been friends since junior infants and have shared so much with each other and now they begin the journey of secondary school together. However this excitement can often be short - lived and as the weeks go by, they notice that their friend is now spending a lot of time with other girls in the class, she is not calling her as much and she has developed a whole different style overnight. When she tries to talk to her friend, she is told that there is nothing wrong. This can be a very painful and confusing time for a young person as they feel betrayed, hurt and alone.
As a parent you can support your child by being there for them, giving them a hug as well as listening to and validating how they feel. Understanding their experience can help you help them come up with ways of dealing with this changing friendship. This first year is an important time for parents to check in with their children and the school about how they are doing. Never assume that because they say nothing about school, that everything is okay. Stay connected and involved.
Article provided by Clare Crowley Collier, Therapist, Educator & Facilitator for Teenagers and Parents