Are they ready for secondary school? Are you? It’s the time of year when hundreds of parents will be walking the corridors of secondary schools, listening to head teachers do their best to sell their school to nervous mums and dads. The cross over to secondary school is a big challenge; getting them into the right school is hard enough, but as they finish year six you will ask yourself a hundred times, ‘are they ready?’
Who is more nervous about this step, you or the child?
I’m a dad of three, but I am also a parenting coach who has supported many parents as they helped their children through moments of transition.In my experience, the best way to help our child know they can handle and flourish in the face of these challenges is to provide them with what I call ‘intentional moments’ – that is creating a moment when they can see what they are made of. This summer as my eldest approached the crossover for Secondary school I wanted him to see that he had the resources and strength of character to thrive in his new environment.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks were to be my son’s ‘intentional moment’. I was hoping that conquering the three highest summits in Yorkshire would help him see his character and that he has all the assets needed to cross over from primary school (Mead Primary School) to secondary school (Coopers Company and Coborn school). We knew it would be a challenge. The 24-mile route, which includes around 1600 meters of ascent and decent, will push most adults to their limits. The first day we climbed Pen-y-ghent (6miles), to reach the summit in the clouds, and on the second day we ascended and descended Ingleborough and then Whernside (20miles). I loved walking in the hills, and spending the quality time with my son was amazing. The climbs were hard work and I could not longer suppress the truth that I was not as fit as when I did my DofE Gold. When I struggled most, my drudgery was made harder by my 11 year old getting bored of waiting for me and disappearing off to leave me on my own. My son is fit! However, towards the end, this challenge pushed him and I was incredibly proud to see his perseverance and commitment to complete the task. Once we had completed the required distance we thumbed a lift from a friendly farmer back to the campsite. After all, the trip was not about getting blisters for the sake of it; it was about exposing himself to his inner strength. His humour throughout kept me going too, as did the jelly beans every mile!
Encouraging parents to see developmental stages in life as a rite of passage gives children the perspective they need to become more resilient. By framing these transitional phases in this way, and associating ‘intentional moments’ with them, children learn to embrace the challenges as steps towards adulthood and taking their place in the world. When they are young, these transitions can be seemingly small – like celebrating the ability to get dressed on their own – but as they grow older, it is important to acknowledge larger challenges like going to secondary school. An intentional moment marks the stage and demonstrates our confidence in their ability to face the next phase of growing up.
A significant part of growing up is being knit into the adult world, often through storytelling. To share our highs and lows, when we got back from the peaks we gathered around a table with the important men in my son’s life. His granddads, uncles and close family friends listened as he told the chronicles of his adventure. For me, the meal cemented externally what the walk had done internally as he related his pain and joys. He listened to those there tell stories of the challenges they had been through and he was affirmed. My son says of our trip, “It was a fun but hard journey and I think I will do well in challenging situations at secondary school; I know I can to do well.”
‘Intentional moments’ don’t have to be this challenging; they can be planning the coast to coast train trip, walking some of the South Downs, entering a triathlon. The important thing is that it they provide an appropriate challenge, giving the child the gift of having to dig deep, and provide some space for them to reflect.
Now my son has started secondary school I realise the time up we had up those hills together was about both him and I getting ready for the change going to secondary school brings. These are transition moments for parents as well as their children!