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Transitioning from elementary to high school

Understand better

Grade 6 is the end of elementary school for your child and they are finally (!) one of the “big kids”. It is also during this year that you realize how quickly time passes!

 

At this stage, you can be proud of your child for having developed so many skills and absorbed so much knowledge already. You can also congratulate yourself as a parent, because in many ways, it’s also thanks to you that your child has succeeded this far!

 

This important year also marks the transition from elementary to high school. Whether you’re experiencing this for the first time with your oldest, or the third time with your youngest, it’s always a big moment. New milestones require some adjustment and can be stressful for you and your child. This is normal.

 

Some people see these changes as being positive, and for others, there will be more worries. Give yourself time and take it one step at a time.

Transition primaire-secondaire

Support better

The transition from elementary to high school happens in three stages:

Better prepare your child:

  • Help them get to know themselves better (their preferences, strengths, struggles).
  • Establish good, open and respectful communication with them.
  • Take an interest in their dreams.
  • Help them set goals.
  • Praise their efforts not just their successes.
  • Help them gradually become more responsible and autonomous in preparation for high school (e.g., teach them how to use their planner to make sure they don’t forget anything)
  • Encourage healthy lifestyle habits (diet, physical activity, sleep, recognizing emotions and managing stress).
  • Promote activities that are just for fun (leisure), not for performance.

 

Facilitate the transition and their motivation:

  • Learn about what is being done in your child’s current elementary school: teachers may have already started activities to ease the transition to high school.
  • Take the time to learn about high schools and the programs available.
  • Attend open houses at the various high schools in your region with your child.
  • Discuss with your partner or co-parent and with your child about their interests.
  • Visit the school you have chosen, check out the neighbourhood and how to get there.
  • If possible, talk to a student who attends the school or to staff members.
  • Help your child identify reassuring points of reference: friends who will be attending the same school, activities they like and can continue to do (at school or after school), etc.

 

Support them:

  • Talk about this transition as a normal stage of life experienced by all adolescents.
  • Tell them you are confident that once they start their new school, they will adjust quickly and feel comfortable there.
  • Ask them about their thoughts on high school and help them deconstruct any perceptions that are untrue or causing concern.
  • Listen to their worries and try to find a helpful solution whenever possible. If not, assure them you will be there to support them, one step at a time.

Better prepare your child:

  • Participate in information and welcome activities organized by the school.
  • Help them take responsibility: support and encourage them to ask for help when needed, but don’t do things for them.

 

Facilitate the transition and their motivation:

  • Help your child identify reassuring points of reference: a map of the school, the names of reliable people to ask for help as needed (supervisor, secretary, friends, etc.).
  • Talk positively about school and education.

 

Support them:

  • Tell them you are proud of them for making it to this stage of life, and how they are growing up.
  • Take the time to talk with them before school starts and after the first few days, and be sure to listen.
  • Normalize how they feel about this change and tell them that in a few days and weeks they will already be used to their new school.
  • Listen to their concerns and guide them towards finding their own solutions. This will help them become more independent.
  • After the first few days, without being intrusive, ask about their interactions with others. Did they chat a little with other students? How is it going? Do they feel comfortable? Are people nice? Do they like their teachers? Do they eat alone or with others? Encourage them to get to know people at school, that it will help them feel better in their new environment.

Facilitate the transition and their motivation:

  • Help them again to identify reassuring points of reference: a map of the school, the names of reliable people to ask for help as needed (supervisor, secretary, friends, etc.).
  • Help them get better at managing their time and priorities.
  • Make sure they have an appropriate space to do homework.
  • Encourage interacting with others to make school more fun: make friends, talk to their teachers, have the courage to ask questions in class, get involved in school activities.
  • Maintain healthy lifestyle habits at home.
  • Find ways to manage stress.
  • Share your confidence in your child’s future with them and keep a positive attitude about school while remaining sensitive to their experience: ask what they like about their new school and what might help to make them feel even better.
  • Encourage them to do daily activities they enjoy, just for fun.
  • Help them to continue seeing friends, even if they no longer attend the same school.
  • Stay connected with your child’s school and the information sent to you by email, the school’s website or through your child.
  • Take advantage of parent-teacher meetings to meet your child’s teachers.

 

Support them:

  • Take an interest in what they are doing and learning.
  • Reassure them that it’s normal to be experiencing some stress.
  • Know that it’s normal for your child to change a little, because they are going through a lot of adaptation: they are heading into adolescence and puberty, facing new situations, probably grieving the loss of things they used to like, may be having a hard time making new friends, etc.
  • Be ready to listen to their concerns and help them identify their own solutions first. This will help them become autonomous while showing that you are there for them.
  • Watch for signs that your teen is not doing well and talk to them to understand what is happening:
    • Bad mood;
    • Significant anxiety;
    • Withdrawal, isolation;
    • Loss of interest in school or regular activities;
    • A drop in grades.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the school or a professional for help as needed (see resources below).

Tips and tricks

  • Some key elements for a successful transition include setting personal goals, maintaining positive relationships, taking pride in achievements, being accepted and recognized for who we are, having the power to make choices, feeling good about ourselves and enjoying life!
  • Fostering a feeling of belonging at school improves motivation for being there … this is true for the transition period, but also throughout high school!

In brief

  • All transitions require time to adjust. Give yourself time to experience each stage and gradually adapt to the changes. It’s normal to find it more difficult at times, but you’ll get there.
  • Maintain a positive relationship with your child and take an interest in their experiences and efforts.
  • Being good to yourself and lowering your stress levels will help you cope with any situation. For more information, visit the “Mental Health” page.
  • Promote curiosity and a positive attitude towards new situations.
  • Talk positively about this new stage: your attitude has a big influence on how your child experiences things!
  • Help them to identify their struggles and find their own solutions. Support them in implementing the solutions they have chosen.
  • Encourage your child to make new friends and continue doing the activities they enjoy (at school and after school). This will increase their sense of well-being and help them to like their new school and integrate better.
  • Help your child set some short- and long-term goals and encourage their efforts to achieve them.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek help as needed.

Resources and practical tools

Resources for everyone

The staff at your child’s school is there for you, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Psychosocial services at your CLSC

Info-social 8-1-1: to locate organizations in your community

Crisis and suicide prevention centre: 1 866 277 3553

School transition resources for parents

Support for school transition: Vers le secondaire et au-delà! | LigneParents (French only)

General support: LigneParents – Soutien professionnel gratuit 24h/7! (French only)

Resources for 12 and older

Tel-Jeunes 24/7 (phone, text, cha) : 1 800 263-2266 (English)

Ligne Parents 24/7 (Ligne Parents 24/7 (phone, chat) : 1 800 361-5085   (French only)

Youth clinic at your CLSC

Tools for school transition

Tools for 12 and older

Last updated: December 2021

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