In early adolescence there are a lot of changes. Children moving from primary to secondary school often experience the top-dog phenomenon. They have gone from being in the top position in primary school where they were the oldest, biggest and most powerful students in the school – to the lowest position where they are the youngest, smallest and least powerful students in the school. This is one of the reasons that the first year of high school can be very difficult for some students. For some,, this may affect their self-esteem. There are generally 3 categories of changes during this time: physically, cognitively and socially.
Cognitive changes have to do with the way your adolescent is thinking. Cognition is the scientific term for the process of thought. During this transition time your child’s thought process is developing. They are able to reason more; they are able to think about things a little more deeply than they did in their younger years. Their brains are more ready to learn more complex subject matter. They are ready to start constructing their own knowledge based on what they have been learning. They are becoming more strategic thinkers and their learning is becoming more influenced by environmental factors including culture, technology and instructional practices. All this being said, it is important to note that they still need support when it comes to decision-making. There needs to be a balance struck between giving your child more responsibility and being there to make sure that they stay on the right path.
The final category of change has to do with social changes. The top dog phenomenon falls under social changes. With transition to high school often comes a transition of friends. There are new people around to be friends with. This is a time where your adolescent may start to battle with their own images of self in terms of how they see themselves, and their self esteem may be affected, based on how they think others see them. Adolescents often try hard to fit in with the ‘in’ crowd, and for this reason it is important to speak to your child about peer pressure and how to walk away from unhealthy situations.
So how does one help their child to be successful during this time, this important time of transition?
The first and most important word is communication. Sit down with your teen and set out clear expectations. Take the time to help them write out their goals for the term and the year. Focus on what they will need to do in order to reach these goals. For academic goals, talk about study timelines and what will need to be done. If your child is involved in sports, talk about the importance of setting a training schedule that also allows for success in school..
Help your child get organized prior to starting school. Make sure they have all the necessary supplies: enough pencils, pens, highlighters, notebooks etc. Clearly identify which notebooks are for which subjects. Some teens work well with an agenda. In many parts of North American, students are given agendas from grade one all the way through to the end of high school. This is a great way to promote time management and teach a life skill that they will need in order to be successful later in life. Using an agenda is a good way to encourage your adolescent to plan out his or her time accordingly and to make sure that they are on top of test, exam and assignment due dates as well as other school, social, church or family commitments.
Having a designated study space can be helpful for some students. If possible, choose an area in the house where your adolescent can study uninterrupted. Try and make it a well-lit area which they can go straight to when they need to start their studying.
Talk about the importance of being healthy. Make sure the house has healthy snacking options as opposed to only junk food. Although your child may like sweet and salty snacks, it may not be the best thing to help them concentrate. Make sure your child sets aside a few times a week for physical activity. Being healthy will not only help your child’s brain to function better when it comes to academics, but it will also help their self-esteem and over all well being.
As a final note, the transition years are a time of change, but do not need to be a stressful time. This ai a time when your child is trying to gain a little more independence and is learning more and more about themselves. Once they are given the proper support and tools to move through this time, they are likely to stay on the right track towards success. Above all, keep the lines of communication open.