Your 12 year old has just completed the PSLE. They are about to graduate and move on to their teenage years - a challenging period for both parent and child.

Moving from a Primary School to Secondary School is a huge milestone for a Singapore child. We leave behind what is familiar and move into uncharted waters. The next few years will be exciting and full of promises but it could be stressful and challenging all at the same time.

A Secondary School is a much bigger learning ground, with more facilities and more rooms to be familiar with. For a 12 year old, this new world could be challenging on many fronts.

Having to make new friends again and being the youngest in school could make some children feel small and lost. Quite often, there will be classes where they may not have a fixed seat, making some feel uprooted.

They will also have to face double the workload – more school subjects, co-curricular activities, extra-curricular activities and various other ongoing school programmes to juggle with.

Children who feel supported during this period and ease into their new environment easily would undoubtedly be able to better manage peer pressure and other growing pains of a teenager.

Can parents play a role?
Of course! This is the time that your child is going through adolescent development. They will cherish their new found freedom and independence but, they will still need your support and will look for your approval. Hence, your presence and support will always play a critical role in your adolescent’s development.

How can parents help children cope with the transition?

1. Be prepared
Better to be prepared. Find out the subjects that your child will be taking in Secondary School and help your child be prepared for school with all the needful school materials. Being embarrassed on their first day could be humiliating at this age so having a good start at their new school would give them a boost of confidence.

If possible, having a talk with your child when he/she is in Primary 5, could help him/her better prepare for the move to a new school and realise the importance of preparing for their PSLE.

Secondary Schools’ Open Houses are a good way for you and your child to view the grounds and could help them shortlist the schools they hope to enter.

2. Listen to them
Unlike their very first day of school, your tween will unlikely want you to be with them on their first day at Secondary School. It is also common for them to feel anxious and nervous but not sure how to deal with their feelings.

This is a good time to provide them with emotional support and establish trust with your young teen. Invite them to share about their day and listen without prying or judging could also form the cornerstone for building trust and strengthen your relationship with your teen.

You could start with simple questions about their new school campus and its facilities, their new teachers, new subjects or lessons they learn in their first term, and their new friends.

3. Set clear boundaries
When they first start Secondary School, having new found independence could be mostly thrilling for a young teen. Not all teens may fully understand or can manage responsibility at this age, yet they need their own space to grow without feeling breathed down their neck.

Setting boundaries early would not only help your teen understand your expectations of him/her within the household but it also helps them to define their own values and character.

Types of boundaries you could set with a young teen are:
• Time to be home
• Responsibilities as a student
• Responsibility to the family (e.g. chores, looking out for family member such as siblings)
• Getting permission before they go out after school and on weekends
• Respect teens’ personal privacy
• Social media rules

Teenagers are infamous for pushing their limits and crossing boundaries. As they grow older, it is only natural that they would test your limits, so these boundaries will change overtime and you may need to bend the rules and adjust the boundaries accordingly.