It makes it easier for your child to change schools

Ten questions for the school psychologist
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Change school – this is how you make it easier for your child

After the summer holidays, many children have to move from primary school to high school. Expectation and curiosity are often mixed with fear and uncertainty. How can parents make it easier for their children?

Many children look forward to high school. They are finally among the big ones and learning new subjects, getting to know fellow students and teachers. A new beginning is associated with hope, but also with worries. Christian Issmer, a psychologist at the Center for School Psychology in Düsseldorf, explains why this is normal and how to make it easier for the offspring.


    Christian Immer is a trained psychologist at the Center for School Psychology in Düsseldorf.

Christian Immer is a trained psychologist at the Center for School Psychology in Düsseldorf.
Photo: Düsseldorf by

What do children often worry about when they change schools?

Issmer The children leave the more protected and limited framework of the primary school. Often the road to school is now longer and everything is new and strange in the beginning. High schools are often very large systems in large school complexes. In addition: The other children and also the many teachers and specialists are strangers in the beginning. The age difference between the new fifth graders and the oldest pupils is much greater than it was in primary school. And the role then changes: You are no longer “the tallest”, but suddenly “the smallest” in school.

How can I make it easier for my child?

Issmer Use the opportunities to put your child into the new situation, for example by practicing the new way of schooling, seeing the new building from the outside, examining pictures of rooms and teachers on the internet. The first days of the new school need to be planned particularly well. Discuss the morning routine with your child beforehand and make sure you have enough time and peace to follow your child well. If elementary school friends or neighbors’ children go to the same school, they can go to school together in the morning. It provides security. Your child needs you as a confidant and security anchor. In situations with many new and strange things, children are helped by devotion, transparency and reliability.

How long does it take children to adjust to the new school?

Issmer Children handle new situations very differently. Most children will definitely need a few weeks or even months. There will definitely be some ups and downs in this phase. Parents should not be surprised if one day the child comes out of school beaming with joy and the next day seems insecure about other children, the teachers or the new subjects.

In high school – especially in high school – the pace of learning and grade pressure increases. How do I catch my child?

Issmer Higher demands can certainly be motivating and performance-enhancing. It is important that the children are well supported and that the goals are set in such a way that they are transparent and achievable for the individual child. Parents should not increase the pressure to perform, especially when it comes to grades. From a psychological point of view, it makes sense not to focus so much on performance, but rather to appreciate the child’s efforts.

With the start of 5th grade, there will be a need for more self-organization: to check in the morning which lessons have been canceled, keep an eye on when which lessons take place in which rooms and decide which AG you would like to participate in. What should I do if my child feels overwhelmed by it?

Issmer For many children, this will initially be a major challenge. Here, too, it takes time to internalize processes. Ask your child what can help them when they feel overwhelmed. Think together about how the child can structure himself well, for example draw up a schedule or a checklist. Support your child in making difficult decisions, for example by weighing the pros and cons of different alternatives.

What can I do if I have the feeling that my child is having trouble getting started in the classroom community?

Issmer Contact the class teacher. This is the best way to support your child in school. School social workers and school psychology are also available if you have any questions or concerns.

How to help reluctant children to make new contacts?

Issmer Discuss with your child what can help them. It may help to gather possible topics to start a conversation with other children. Or thinking about what games the child likes and how other children may be attracted to these games. At the same time, parents should not build up any pressure of expectation: No child should be friends with the whole class. Often it is just one or two contacts that start a new class. If there are contacts among the parents in a class, there is nothing wrong with meeting the children outside of school. However, this should be discussed with the child so that he does not feel left out. Sometimes there is a stop to cultivate and maintain old friendships from elementary school or outside of school.

What are the warning signs that my child is struggling with the transition?

Issmer Special attention is required if, for example, the child seems very anxious or depressed, has sleep problems, makes negative comments about school, does not want to go to school in the morning or complains of physical problems. Additional support may be needed, especially when there is a marked change in mood, behavior and symptoms compared to when they went to primary school.

Issmer First and foremost, parents should approach the child calmly and not dramatize. Try to find out what is bothering your child and whether you can help him. Find contact with the class teacher, who sees your child in the class every day and can support them in everyday school life. At all high schools, there are also counseling teachers and school social workers who can be consulted. The Center for School Psychology also supports families with questions about their child’s well-being at school.

The child goes to school – not the parents. What role does it play that I go to parenting evenings and class meetings?

Issmer Parents are important partners for the school when it comes to issues of school and social-emotional development. Both have the same goal, namely to support the child in the best possible way according to his needs, interests and abilities. Regular exchanges with teachers are therefore recommended, especially in early high school. Once the contact is established, it is so much easier to work together later on with questions and concerns. It can be a good feeling for the children if the parents know the people involved in every school day at school.

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