Thursday, 5 September 2013

Secondary school - 11 things you may not know

Connie started at her new secondary school on Tuesday. I had the usual lump in my throat at yet another milestone reached and she was nervous she'd become lost but she didn't and says she's happy there so far.

Having already gone through "the change" with Lorna (now in Y10 so starting GCSEs - aaargh!) I feel I can offer a few tips or words of advice to those of you who are new to secondary school life or will be waving your child off to bigger big school in the future.

1. You are unlikely to get to know many of the parents. Many children make their own way to school, those that are driven jump out of the car. At home time don't make the mistake of getting out of your car to wait for them. If you are not already embarrassing you soon will be. Don't hasten the inevitability.

2. You will not have much involvement in school life. There may be the odd performance if your child is so inclined, or the occasional awards ceremony but that's about it. At our school parents aren't invited to Sports Day and even if they were Lorna would die if I even thought of attending. Likewise carol services etc, even if parents are invited think very carefully about attending. Your little boy or girl who would look out hopefully for you at primary school is now more likely to be cringing because you turned a page a fraction more noisily or coughed quietly.

3. Your child's friends will begin to ignore you in the street. Not straight away but in time the child you've known since they were in nappies will avert their eyes when you pass. This becomes even more true if they are with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

4. Yes, boyfriends and girlfriends come on the scene. With luck it will be a while before your child is heartbroken. We've not experienced that yet, but it will probably happen. You may want to know all the details - who asked who out, do they hold hands, have they kissed yet? DO NOT ASK TOO MANY QUESTIONS! Nothing causes a teen to clam up quicker. If they want to talk they will, let them know they can talk to you about anything then leave it up to them.

5. Listen when your child says they will not wear the expensive school coat because nobody else does. They really won't wear it, preferring to freeze than to make some terrible school fashion faux pas. And the coat will just hang uselessly in the wardrobe (ask me how I know this!)

6. Be realistic about alcohol. At some point your child is most likely going to drink it, acknowledge that and let them know you trust them to know the difference between being drunk and being dangerously drunk. It might not work but if you respect your child they are more likely to respect themselves.

7. You can lead a teen or pre-teen to fruit but you can't make them eat it - not at school at least. Be prepared for them to come home saying they had a cheese panini and a muffin for lunch. Fruit often seems to have mysteriously run out by the time they reach the front of the lunch queue.

8. Parents Evenings are a special kind of hell. Remember how they always ran late at primary school? This is so much worse! Your child now has different teachers so you will need to make separate appointments to see each of them. It may be that you rely on your child to make these appointments so don't be surprised if the first is at 3.45, the second at 5 and the third at 5.05. They will over-run and you will find yourself being "next in" to see the geography teacher 20 minutes later than booked knowing this will make you miss your appointment slot with the science teacher who will, according to Murphy's Law, be running on time. My main tip for Parents Evening would be to not try to see every teacher. If your child has no musical inclination for instance and says they're happy enough in music lessons then accept that. Trying to see every single subject teacher in one night is probably mission impossible and your child's class tutor should be able to help if you do have any concerns.

 9. Homework becomes more frequent and there is more of it. Remind them but accept that if they don't do it then they will have to suffer the consequences. At primary you may have been able to go in and explain that you'd been away for the weekend and so they'd forgotten all about their maths sheet but not at secondary school.

10. Stock up on printing paper and ink. Seriously. So much homework involves printing something off, you'll go through tons of both.

11. Enjoy them growing up! Sure there will be arguments, slamming of doors, eye rolling etc but teenagers are clever, witty people. You will be amazed at how perceptive they can be and finding out things you have in common, a shared love of comedy shows for instance will be a real pleasure. They can be good company, I probably laugh more with Lorna than with anybody else.

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