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Four ways parents can help teenagers transition to high school

OPINION
By Victoria Wanja | August 5th 2021
Parents sit as they wait for their children to be admitted at the Kerugoya Boys High School on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 [Courtesy]

Images of parents taking their children to high school have brought back nostalgic memories for me.

I am 17 years old and currently a student at an international school in Kajiado after I transitioned from a semi-private high school teaching the 8-4-4 syllabus. My form one experience is something I shall never ever forget.

I joined form one in 2019 after scoring relatively well in my KCPE. The last two years of my primary school education were intense, to say the least. I would sleep for a maximum of five hours, wake up at 4 am and thoroughly comb through the syllabus. I think my mother was more stressed than I was. She encouraged me to give my best, although she would often worry that I was not getting enough sleep, or that I was pushing myself too hard. So when I got admission to high school, I was over the moon. My mother was a bit anxious because it was my first time going to boarding school. 

We spent a couple of days shopping for uniform, stationery, personal items and other items that I needed for school. After my mother dropped me off, I was on my own! This was all prior to the onset of Covid-19.

Fast track to 2021, parents have sent their teenagers to school under special circumstances. Normally, form one students report to school at the start of a calendar year. This time, they are reporting to school in the middle of the year – after Covid-19 disrupted the school calendar year.

The life of a ‘mono’

Parents may assume that leaving their children in their new schools, with their beds spread and lockers full is the end of the onboarding process. However, that is only the start of a journey for teenagers with new challenges.

The life of a ‘mono’ (as they are commonly referred to by their older comrades) is a whole new experience. Boarding life, new subjects, stringent rules and restrictions - all these new aspects of school can take a toll on your child’s emotional and mental wellbeing if they are not equipped with a support system, coping strategies and helpful skills.

Considering that schools are likely to limit in-person contact between students and their parents in response to the pandemic, this year’s form one students will need extra support. Here are some tips on how to assist your child as they adjust to joining high school...

  1. Encourage them to make friends

Students transitioning to high school are often warned against making friends who are bound to be a bad influence on their behaviour. Unfortunately, the same emphasis is not put on the importance of forming healthy relationships with their peers who can provide moral support throughout their journey in high school.

As a parent, advise your child on how to go about making friends in their new school. This is especially helpful in case your child is more introverted, meaning they find it difficult to socialise and put themselves out there. Moreover, you should tell them the qualities that they ought to look for when making a friend. Someone who shares the same interests and hobbies as your child, or who can assist him or her in subjects which they find difficult, is sure to make a good companion for your child.

  1. Make use of anecdotes

The high school experience is one that is nuanced depending on the individual at hand. However, there never fails to be shared experiences and lessons among the experiences of different people.

Sharing amusing and funny stories with your child from your own experience when you were in high school can help to alleviate any fear or tension which your child has. You can share stories about the clubs and sports that you were enrolled in, the legendary ‘funkies’ which you attended or even the mischief you and your friends would get into. Doing so will help your child have a less anxiety-ridden approach towards this new chapter of their life.

  1. Pay attention to non-academic areas

Every parent’s wish is for their child to excel in their education so that they may have access to good job opportunities and a bright future. In spite of this, it is important to remember that life does not only revolve around academics.

Parents should actively support their children in joining clubs and participating in activities outside of the classroom. Encourage your child to take up hobbies which they enjoy; activities which give them fulfilment. Such clubs and activities include music, sports, church unions and debate. By doing this, you will play a key role in ensuring that your child is a well-rounded student, not to mention that they will enjoy being in school even more.

  1. Be compassionate

Lastly, it is essential that as a parent, you listen and be understanding of your child’s new experience. Try to recall how you were in their position many years ago - the thoughts and emotions which you were having as you attempted to make your way in what was then a brand new phase of your life.

If your child shares complaints with you about their life in school, steer clear of saying things such as ‘everyone goes through that’ or ‘you will just get used to it'. Instead, be keen on how the situation is affecting them personally and then offer practical advice which will help them accordingly.

Victoria is currently on a job shadow programme at The Standard Group.

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