Helping your teenager prepare for high school

Father showing daughter something online

The start of high school is the mark of a new chapter in your teen’s life. Parents play an important role in preparing teens for this exciting milestone. Below are some evidence-based strategies you can use at home to help your teen feel confident and ready to make the transition to high school.

Help your teen get to know their new school

Give your teen an opportunity to become familiar with their new school environment ahead of their first day. If your teen’s new school allows it, and if it doesn’t happen during their orientation, organise for them to have a tour of the campus. That will help them learn the location of their classrooms, student support services, toilets, sports amenities and lunch areas. Take a look at the area together on Google Maps, or go for a quick drive-by to learn the layout of the school grounds. Make sure your teen knows how they are getting to and from school each day. If they are taking the bus, show them the drop-off and pick-up points where they will catch it each day.

It’s also important to stay up to date with what's going on at the school. Find out whether updates are shared on an app, parents portal or website. This will help you to remember key dates, let you know how to contact staff and keep you informed about upcoming events for parents, sports and social club sign-ups, sports carnivals and exam periods.

Be ready for homework

Moving to high school means your teen will need to adapt to a variety of teaching styles, new subjects and assessment tasks. You can help them to be prepared for this by:

  • ensuring they have what they need ahead of time, and work out a study routine together

  • keeping their timetable visible (such as on the fridge or a pinboard). This can help your teen be organised

  • creating a physical space for them to complete their homework, if possible, set up a study area in your home together

  • checking in with them regularly, asking questions about their schoolwork, and showing an interest in what they are learning; not just their assessment marks.

If your child is struggling academically, or if you feel they are spending too much time doing homework, contact the relevant person at the school, as your teen may need support. Remember: academic achievement isn’t everything. You can play a big role in helping your child to form healthy expectations about their schoolwork

Provide a source of stability

As your teen settles into high school, it’s important to keep other parts of their life stable. This will help them focus on nailing the transition phase.

If possible, ensure that a parent, grandparent or carer is home with your teen before and after school for the first few weeks. Try to minimise the amount of change to your teen’s home life during this time to allow them to focus on adapting to their new school routine. This can be achieved by:

  • consider the number of extracurricular activities and household chores they do

  • setting a regular time for them to go to bed and wake up

  • giving them healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner

  • encouraging your teen to exercise and keep up their physical activity

  • giving them time to recharge after school, it's likely they will be tired

  • keeping your cool when your teen is stressed, and providing opportunities for them to relax and recharge outside of school hours.

Communicate with your teen’s school

Starting high school is an exciting time for the whole family, so try and take an active role in their education.

If possible, attend your school’s parent events or find opportunities to meet with your teen’s teachers. Take advantage of parent-teacher nights to hear about the great things they are doing at school. This is also an opportunity for you to form relationships with your child’s teachers and to communicate any thoughts you may have about your teen’s learning needs.

Things to look out for during the transition phase

If you are concerned that your teen might be struggling during their transition to high school, try to talk to them about how they are feeling. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Your teen is refusing to go to school.

  • They complain regularly about feeling sick on Sunday night or before school.

  • They close off from their friends.

  • They don’t want to talk to you about school. Their effort starts to slip. Their self-esteem seems lower than normal.

If you notice any of these signs in your teen during the high school transition phase, contact the school or your GP.

Celebrate the wins

Starting high school takes the courage to try new things. As your teen starts high school, there will be plenty of things to celebrate. You can show your support by:

  • cheering them on as they tackle new challenges, for example, riding the bus to school by themselves and completing their first homework tasks

  • make time for family catch-ups where you can talk about what your teen is learning

  • allow your teen to share what they are excited about at school, such as their wins in the classroom and the new people they are meeting

  • celebrating milestones such as making it through the first week, or term.

Did you find what you needed?