Starting secondary school for the first time can easily be daunting for most tweens. They’re at an age where they will have to learn about being independent, whether they like it or not.

They start having more commitments in school and are also at the age where social life becomes important for their self-identity and personal growth. Either way, having to juggle school and friends is going to be no easy feat!

The support from parents makes a difference in how they navigate teen troubles and demanding school work. For a better start to the school year, you could always help by getting them ready physically and mentally.

Diaries / Calendars
First-time secondary students will have twice or more the number of core subjects and must find time for compulsory co-curricular activities (CCAs). Singapore schools also offer interesting curriculum where interactive learning is encouraged. With secondary schools having autonomy in setting their curriculum, students will get exposed to different programmes and activities and will also be engaged in their school events.

Some schools actually give free diaries to their students as a student handbook printed with the school rules, motto and key dates (such as examination and vacation periods) to help them plan.

Parents can help them to organize their school life with a diary or calendar so they don’t get overwhelmed and stay on top of what is happening. If space allows, help them create a pin-up board for them to have an overview of the month’s or year’s happenings.

Note-taking becomes an essential skill for secondary students. If your child prefers pen and paper -- note pads, sticky post-its and coloured highlighters may become useful and you can always head down to Bras Basah Complex to get the stationery they need.

Or check out local bookstore, Popular where you can shop for most things required for children heading back to school.

In the age of the digital natives, lessons involving the use of a computer or access to the internet is the norm. While your child would have access to a computer in the school library or computer room, they may still be required to do some work at home using a computer or going online.

Here are some options on getting a new laptop for your child:
• Source for new affordable hardware on offer during the IT or PC fairs typically held in March, May/June and November each year.
• Refurbish your old laptops for your child’s use. If you don’t know how to do this, you can bring your laptop to digital retailers.
• Borrow one at the public library. If your child only needs the computer for a few hours, you could always head down to the public library to use their computers with high speed internet access. The libraries allow you to print documents too, although some charges would apply.

There are also bursary awards, computer loans or other financial assistance available for students who need help in purchasing any required hardware for their studies. Check with your child’s school and teachers.

Mobile Phones
Most school have strict mobile phone usage policy with both parents and students agree that this is a major distraction in class. Before you decide to buy your child a mobile phone, it might be a good idea to check on the school’s policy and consider the need of having one for your child.

Secondary School Life
This is the time where children learn to be independent learners and thinkers. You may be unsure of how much “help” or how much “freedom” to give your new teenager.

Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for this.

Before you decide to ‘help’ your child by signing them up for extra tuition or classes and potentially adding more stress and pressure, check in with them and their teachers occasionally to find out how they are coping in school.

Perhaps the best preparation for secondary school is to assure your teenager of a safe home to return to and to be their pillar of strength and support as they grow through this challenging period.