A few years ago, my eldest daughter Hayley and I survived the transition to Year 7. It was a wonderful year where I felt so proud of my daughter for navigating through the challenges and becoming more independent and grown-up. So what would my advice be for parents this year with kids going into Year 7?
1. Be Positive
I asked Hayley for the advice she would give to parents and she said, ‘Don’t let them watch ‘Mean Girls’ or tell them horror stories about your time at school’. Be positive.
2. Encourage independence but show grace
There are new skills to learn in Year 7 that will be useful for the rest of your child’s life. Firstly, catching public transport rather than being driven to school. Hayley has to walk up the road and catch a school bus. In the first two weeks of Year 7, the bus was really late and sometimes full: this caused real anxiety! So for a couple of weeks, I walked her to the bus stop to make sure she was okay. We encouraged her to catch the bus even when we could have driven her, but occasionally (for example, exam time) gave her a lift.
The next big skill to learn is personal organisation. Hayley was given this huge diary with all the information she had to manage. She had to remember whether it was ‘Week 1’ or ‘Week 2’ and what books, sports gear or musical instrument to take each day. For the first couple of weeks I made her pack her bag at night time and checked whether she had everything, but after that it became her own responsibility.
3. Make home a ‘safe haven’
As she started High School, Hayley’s biggest concern was finding a ‘group’ – that is, a group of friends where she felt she belonged: but this can take some time. The Year 7 camp was very helpful in getting to know girls but it was not until Term 3 that the friend networks settled into ‘groups’. It is really important for kids to feel that home is a place where they belong and are accepted, especially when they are feeling insecure with their friendship groups. Plenty of relaxed family time is needed this year!
4. Help them fit in, but not too much
Once Hayley had a ‘group’, she then had to manage the pressures of the group! The biggest pressure for her has been money. Having the right clothes (brand), the right phone, a big TV and house suddenly became very important to her. On top of that there was a pressure to spend lots of money with friends on movies and shopping at Westfield. We have tried to find the balance of being generous to Hayley but also trying to teach her that true joy does not come from ‘stuff’ but knowing who you are in Christ.
5. Strongly encourage them go to the Christian group
My husband told Hayley that she had to go to the Crusader group each week in Year 7 at least. Though you may disagree with our methods, it was helpful for her to ‘come out’ early as a Christian rather than it being a surprise to friends later on. She also made a close Christian friend who encourages her.
6. Pray with them
Starting Year 7 is an opportunity for both you and your child to depend upon God and his grace. Praying together will not only help you do this, but will strengthen your own relationship as you face the challenges ahead.
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