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Secondary school: the first few weeks

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Children starting a new secondary school can take a while to settle in. Here’s our guide to dealing with start-of-term anxieties

Academic stress

Even if your child was a star pupil in primary school and ready for something more challenging, the workload at secondary school can take adjustment. Lots of schools now have an online system for keeping track of assignments, so you can log in too. But however well-organised the school and your child may be, having less free time can be a shock. Make sure your child knows that if they’re struggling to keep up, they should talk to you or their teacher for help. Once things start piling up, it gets much harder.  

‘Secondary school is when many children start using social media’

Making friends

Some children have an easier time making friends than others. Even though all the new students are having to meet new people, it’s not uncommon after a few weeks for children to feel they still don’t have any friends.

Tempting as it might be to keep asking if they’ve made friends, try to hold back. If they’re struggling it might be uncomfortable to be put on the spot. Instead, try letting them know you’re always there if they want to talk.

Secondary school is when many children start using social media and it can be helpful for making and staying in touch with friends. Most social media platforms specify you have to be over 13 to sign up, but many children use social media before this.

Whatever your views on whether they should or not, if you think there is a chance they might be using social media, make sure they know how to use apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat safety. Check they can use privacy settings, block and report users who upset them and, most of all, let them know that they can come to you about any problems they may face because of them, even if they're using them underage.

At primary school, you probably knew most of your child’s friends, and many of their parents, but at secondary school, it becomes much likelier that you won’t know everyone they hang around with. It’s natural to worry about who your child is spending time with, but try to accept you’ll have less control over who their friends are as they grow up.

One thing that can help is getting to know some of the other parents at your child’s new school. There’s less of a social school gate culture than in primary school, so make a point of going to introductory evenings and other events.


Bullying is one of the biggest concerns for parents of young people starting secondary school for the first time. If your child is bullied, whether online or in real life, it may be upsetting for both of you, and could interfere with their studies. Almost all schools have anti-bullying policies (state schools are required to do so by law,) so you should be able to get help from your child’s school if needed. Make sure you take screenshots and keep any evidence of any bullying messages. Read more on dealing with bullying here.

When they feel they don’t fit in

Occasionally, a child feels despairing about their new school for a long time. Changing schools is possible - but it’s a serious decision and comes with its own challenges. Some things you might want to consider first:

  • Make sure you know exactly why your child wants to move. Have you spoken to the right people at their current school? Has enough has been done to address your concerns?
  • The curriculum will be delivered differently at another school and, if your child moves, they’ll probably have missed work. They’ll need a plan for catching up and will need to understand that it may not be a smooth process.
  • Are you sure moving school would really help? If your child is having trouble making friends, for example, starting at a new school where many students will have established friend groups may not be very helpful.

Further reading

Read NCA-CEOP's guide for young people on using social networks safely

Parent guides to social media and online platforms from Parent Zone

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

Updated: ​May 2018

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