Transitioning my parenting style from Primary to Secondary

Transitioning my parenting style from Primary to Secondary

Congratulations on your child’s progression to secondary school! Some of us may dread it, but it is a sign that your child is growing up! From our 23 years of experience conducting transitional programmes with secondary 1 students, here are some things we believe will be useful in understanding and interacting with your child in this phase of life.

There are TWO major changes a child will be facing when transitioning to secondary school, which may affect how we change our interactions with them.

  1. Change in physical environment
  2. Change in development stage (cognitive, social, emotional)

1. Change in Physical Environment

Youths their age are most sensitive to visual and physical changes. A change in school can be quite abrupt, especially when they are suddenly entering a new environment. From being the oldest in the school to being the youngest. Meeting people they have never met before. From “primary” to “secondary”. All these signifies that they are growing up. These may have an affect their mindsets, and social-emotional well-being.

2. Change in development stage

Youths are constantly maturing. Over time, you will see growth in their physical, cognitive, social and emotional domains. These may also affect how we want to interact with them. 

Physical: They are more cautious of how they look, wanting to look good in front of their peers. They may be more self-conscious of their body image.

Cognitive: Youths begin to have stronger opinions and look for information from other sources, rather than their usual few.

Social: Youths are not afraid to be away from family and may sought to seek peer recognition. They begin to develop curiosity about the opposite gender.

Emotional: Youths begin to ask “who am I” and form their self-concept. They like to see success and take part in activities they are good in. How has their most recent milestone (PSLE) affected their self-concept?

How do these change the way I interact with my child?

Increase Independence & Autonomy

With the “I have grown up” mindset, youths like they’re in control of their day to day activities. What they do after school, who they hang out with, what they eat, what time they arrive home, mobile phone usage, how much I study. While these may seem to us like a loss of control, they provide very good opportunities to talk about decision making and the consequences that come with different decisions they make. 

What we can do as parents is to have a conversation with them to set boundaries and determine their play area. Some examples include: family dinner each day at 7pm, areas they are allowed to go, expectations of behaviours and academic results in school. 

While there’s autonomy, also instill accountability

Help youths to realise the difference between necessity and privilege. A mobile phone may be a necessity. A smartphone with Instagram, Tiktok, games is a privilege. Friends and social interactions may be a necessity. Staying out late is a privilege. If youths want more privileges, they will need to show that they can be trusted and accountable for it. When they do not meet up to certain expectations, privileges will change. 

While interacting with my youths, I’ve seen those who have total free reign of their mobile device. Others are “protected” from downloading new apps and making purchases. Some experience regular phone and message checks. In this new phase of your child’s life, your style will be something you are comfortable with, and yet encourages your child to take ownership for their decisions.

Build a Trusting Environment which fosters Communication

As youths look toward their friends, and less toward their family, we want to ensure they know that there is always a place they can turn to. A place that is open, non-judgemental, loving, forgiving and nurturing.

Be quick to love, slow to judge

While we give our child autonomy, expect that they will make bad decisions and face consequences. But that is when they learn most. In our daily interactions with them, we may feel tempted to give them closed-ended responses: yes or no, right or wrong, can or cannot. We may even tell them the answers to all their questions. As they develop cognitively, they are also developing their values system. Help them to PROCESS situations by asking these questions

  • What did you do? What made me want to do it? How did it make me feel?
  • Who do my actions affect? How did it affect them? How did it make them feel? Why do you think he/she would do that? 

As we ask these questions, youths will develop the habit innately. Understanding why a decision was made, they will also catch on to the values that we believe in. We show them that we still love them even though they made a mistake.

The child is exposed to news from all around. Even in our day to day interactions, you help them to process information in an open and safe environment. This sends a message to them that there’s always room for conversations.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

I remember conducting a programme in a school and it was break time. Students were playing on their mobile devices and the sound effects were at the highest volume. A teacher came in to give them instructions which went like this “Ok, I know you guys are playing your games and you can’t stop halfway. But I have a very important announcement. You can continue, but please make sure you listen”. Immediately, the students turned off the volume from their mobile devices and listened attentively

Another instance was when we had a short 5 minutes toilet break and students were asking if they could use their phones. We came to an agreement that they could use their mobile devices but will keep them once the time is up. Knowing that, students played practise games rather than ranked games which would affect their in-game progress. When time was up, students willingly put their devices into their bags, and it was easy to get started again.

Youths their age appreciate when you have considered their situation. The importance of the game they are playing. The friendships that they have made. They also like to have a say in what they do. While we do not give them total free reign, it’s important to communicate boundaries and circumstances with them. They will be willing to meet halfway and come to common agreements.

Youths their age want their independence., yet they still need help in many different areas. The way we interact with them can also transition to a secondary school “mode” where grey area increases bit by bit. Rather than throwing them a yes or no, provide 3 options for them to choose from. This is a controlled environment for them to learn the skill of decision making. Help them to understand the decisions made according to different CONTEXTS and situations. This brings them to a higher order of thinking and thought maturity.

I hope these will help you and your child transition from Primary to Secondary school successfully.

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