It’s the end of an era when your child leaves primary school. Your life and support network have been intertwined within a community that’s always at the end of the phone – if not a WhatsApp message – but now big school is looming and it’s time to move on.
Some of that network moves on with you, but a lot of it won’t. And discovering the best ways to tackle secondary – and all the difficulties that can come with it – is often tricky. Arm yourself with these tips and you should breeze through.
1. Get them kitted out with epic new stationery
Smiggle might rule the school at primary, but once they’re 11, Stabilo pens and highlighters are top of the lust list, and Paperchase becomes your go-to. Pencil cases should be sleek and cool, and funky organisers and pads make the whole experience feel fresh.
2. Be snack savvy
School canteens can be a lifesaver, but they can also be expensive. When the budget gets blown on a single chocolate brownie, you might want to re-think and stick to good old packed lunches. Quick and easy foods are a winner – think wraps, pasta, corn cakes and houmous, with fruit and veg sides, and Fruit Bowl‘s grab-able treats are adored by kids of all ages, aren’t too high in calories or sugar and make life super easy (prices start from £2 for a multi-pack, available in supermarkets).
3. Label everything
Once they’re starting secondary, everything seems to cost quite a bit more – the fancy stationery, the school bag, the uniform. To avoid pouring all that money down the drain, be sure to label everything, so you can claim it back if (when) it gets misplaced. Any Cricut fans can do this by perfectly personalising everything beautifully, but you can also buy name stamps which don’t wash out, stickers which genuinely stay put (the ones from easy2name.com work well) or even grab a good old Sharpie and write on the labels.
4. Deck them out in cool shoes
When it comes to shoe buying on a budget, you could buy a foot measurer from Start-rite (£12) so you know their exact size, and then shop online. And if they’re picky, the likes of Next and Very let you order several pairs at once, so you can try them all on, return the ones you don’t want and only pay for the ones you do. Oh, and try Kickers. All the cool kids are in them. This year, we’re especially loving their Tovni Lace Junior (£47), and the Kick Lo Junior (£55) never goes out of style.
5. Upgrade their lunchbox and water bottle
Water bottles seem to be something every child loves to collect. They probably won’t need a new one, but as this is a move to big school, it is nice to start afresh, with a grown-up bottle and lunchbox. Some of our favourites include the Ocean Bottle (£40, oceanbottle.co) which is fully recyclable and made from stainless steel and recycled ocean plastic, includes a dual opening for (essential) fast filling, and is 100% dishwasher-proof and leak-proof, and the LUND London Lunchbox in Mint (£24, Iamfy.co) which is made of a bamboo mix, and comes with a bento-style divider and wraparound band to prevent spills.
6. Get the tech set-up right
We’ve all learned the hard way that homeschooling on shared tech is somewhat problematic. The good news, however, is live lessons are a breeze at secondary school, especially if they have their own computer. The Honor MagicBook 14 (£699.97, box.co.uk) is ultra light and fast with an all-day battery and fast charging, all while minimising blue light by 50%. Google Chromebooks are also a dream, especially as most schools use Google Classroom (Pixelbook Go starts from £629, store.google.com) and, of course, there’s the mobile phone. If they don’t already have one, secondary school is the time most children get a phone. The Pixel 4a offers affordability and easy parental controls (from £349, store.google.com), but many kids will have an iPhone (and probably a top-of-the-range new one, at that), so your child may want to follow the crowd (iPhone 12 Mini starts from £699, apple.com/uk).
7. Get to know other parents
When your child makes new friends, it’s much harder to get to know their parents. Lots of kids make their own way to school, and they have a phone to organise their own socials. This can feel a little bit worrying when your son or daughter is talking about going to a sleepover and you’ve never even met the child whose house they are staying at, let alone their mum or dad. Undoubtedly, this will get harder. You will be an embarrassing and interfering parent, so before they reach the Kevin The Teenager stage, try to get parents’ numbers, invite kids to your house, ask their mum or dad in when they come to pick them up – it can really help to reassure you.
8. Talk through friendship issues
There will be friendship issues. They’re adolescents, everything’s going crazy in their brains and bodies right now, so just accept there will be some tricky times ahead. It can seem sensible not to get involved and let them sort out their own issues, and sometimes that works, but other times, simply listening, talking stuff through, and discussing problems with your child and their friends openly and honestly can be more helpful. Always try to make yourself available for listening – you’ll be thankful you did.
9. Look after yourself
Self-care is something we seem to hear about constantly now, but that’s because it’s important. Bringing up teenagers and guiding them through adolescence is a really tough job. Make sure you plan stuff in for you. Date nights, catch-ups with friends, an hour to read a book, a weekly exercise class – whatever it is that will make you happy, do it. Every day if at all possible, but definitely at least once a week.