Helping your child as they start secondary school

Parent coach and teen mentor, EILEEN KEANE HALY, who lives in Cork, launches a three-day series by offering advice on how we can support our kids with their transition from 6th class to secondary school
Helping your child as they start secondary school

GUIDANCE: Eileen Keane Haly is a parent coach and teen mentor

MANY kids start secondary school full of excitement and confidence, but for others this transition can be a difficult one. I work with hundreds of 12-13 year olds and have seen the many different struggles some of them can encounter.

Fear of new teachers

This is a big one, for some reason many kids are so nervous of new teachers. I try to explain to them that they probably wont like all of their teachers and there is a chance that all of their teachers may not like them, but that is the norm. They will have so many teachers it won’t really matter.

If they have a teacher they are struggling with, at least they know its only for that subject and not for the whole day!

Nervous of meeting new people and

making new friends

Teenagers crave a sense of belonging, being part of a peer group. Friendship issues can be a huge problem for many of them as they start secondary school.

I have asked 5th and 6th year students what their advice would be and this is what they said; talk to as many people as possible, join as many activities as possible as this will give them a chance to meet people outside of their home room take their time making friends, don’t attach themselves to the first group that show an interest give people a chance, don’t judge them without talking to them and getting to know them most people make their strong friendships from 3rd year on, not in 1st year.

Being organised

I am always surprised at how many kids are nervous about not being organised. Why is that? Parents, please teach your kids the importance of being able to organise their own school bags. They need to learn this life skill for themselves. Try to let them make their own lunches, pack their own books, pe gear etc when they are 13/14 years of age, you will be doing them a disservice if you do it for them.

I suggest getting them in the habit of packing all bags (books & sports) the night before, start as you mean to go on. If you do these daily tasks for them, how will they ever learn for themselves? I strongly believe one of most important roles for all of us as parents, is to teach our kids to be independent of us.


For some reason so many 6th class students believe they will be overrun with homework. This really is not the case. They do not tend to give them too much homework in first year, they tend to wean them in gently enough.

It is always a good idea for them to do the homework on the night they get it, regardless of when they next have the subject. Once they stay up to date with homework, they won’t go wrong.

If you see them struggling with any particular subject, talk about it, they may need a little extra help or you many need a quiet word with the teacher.

Peer Pressure

Some kids will bend to peer pressure more easily than others. Talk to your kids about values, the importance of your own family values - this conversation needs to happen. Try to remember what it was like when you were 13/14, a lot is the same. Did you ever feel tempted to do something you weren’t happy doing in order to fit in, to feel part of the crowd? Talk to your kids and let them know you understand how hard it can be but let them see you are there for them. You do not want your kids to be afraid to come to you, that can be a dangerous place for any of them to find themselves.


Teenagers can be very cruel at times, often thinking they are being funny when they call each other names. Try to ensure your teenager is clean, this may sound so obvious but when kids are doing pe, sports etc they tend to sweat a lot, especially at this age. Sweat on a clean body does not tend to smell but sweat on a not so clean body can tend to smell a lot. This is a very sensitive area at this age so try to encourage your teen to shower daily, use deodorant and ensure school shirts, sports gear is clean.

To finish, the teenage years can be hard and starting secondary school can be a huge challenge for many kids but do try to remember most kids will find their feet eventually. There is support out there so if you feel your kids need a little help, find the right help for them.

Don’t let little issues become bigger issues by not dealing with them. Keep communication as openly as possible, make time to talk to them (5 mins at bed time can be enough), let them know you are there for them but at the same time allow them to do things for themselves. They may give out and moan every step of the way but believe me they will thank you later.

Help them to feel capable and able, what is the alternative?

“We many not be able to prepare the future for our children but we can prepare our children for the future.”

About the author: Eileen Keane Haly, is the Director of and author of The Parent. Eileen is a qualified Parent Coach, Kids Confidence Coach and Teenage Mentor, with a background in child psychology.

The Parent by Eileen Keane Haly
The Parent by Eileen Keane Haly

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