My son hasn’t settled into secondary school. I’m worried about him

The transition from primary to second level is a huge one in any child’s life

My son has just started secondary school and seems overwhelmed by the step up. Gone is the bubbly boy who couldn’t wait to recount the day’s events in the car on the way home. He seems quiet and more subdued. I have spoken to his year head, who said it can take a few months for children to adapt to the new challenges of second level. Should I be worried?

I would concur with your son’s year head. The transition from primary to second level is a huge one in any child’s life. Overnight, they have gone from being the senior students to the most junior. This can be quite intimidating and the potential for bullying, from both within his new peer group, as certain students begin to mark out their territory, and from older students taking advantage of the vulnerability of new arrivals, is something teachers – but particularly year heads – will be keenly observing.

Previously he had a single teacher for an entire year, whose every action quickly became familiar in his mind. Now, he most likely has up to a dozen teachers, if not more, each with their own teaching style.

Apart from the multiple teachers, there is also the constant movement from the moment he enters his school building each morning.


Instead of heading for a familiar classroom he instead heads for a set of lockers where all his school-based books are stored. He has to remember which subjects he has for the early morning classes and which homework, if any, he must remember to bring to class. He will return to his locker at least three or four times a day to extract the latest classroom requirements, and deposit those he has just used. You can imagine the state of his locker at the end of a day’s activity. Getting it in shape before leaving the building as a very tired young man, so that he can manage the following day’s requirements, is a big learning experience.

Over a lifetime of teaching I have been constantly amazed at how quickly new students adapt to the radically changed environment. By Halloween the vast majority of first years have fully integrated themselves into the day-to-day routine of secondary school.

Having said that, I would not in any way dismiss your concerns. If his mood remains subdued, I would one 100 per cent contact his year head again to see if the teachers have any observations regarding his adaptation to the new challenges he is currently grappling with. Remind him that you are there to talk about anything, at any time. Even if he doesn’t engage, it will be a great comfort to know that he can share anything on his mind. Hopefully, within a few weeks, he will have settled in and adjusted to his new circumstances.

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