Getting Ready for Sec 1 Life

Submitted by KiasuEditor

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Feeling a bit lost about getting your child ready for secondary school? Whether you’re sorting through mixed emotions post-PSLE, wondering about secondary school placements, or just feeling unsure about the big jump ahead, many parents share your concerns.

In the following guide, we’ve gathered five common scenarios, along with some suggestions on how to tackle them. Read on to find out how to navigate this new chapter with more ease and less worry. 

“My child didn’t do well in the PSLE. I’m afraid her grades will slip even more in secondary school.”

First, do remember that “doing well” or “doing badly” is subjective. You or your child may still be feeling the sting of the PSLE results, for any of these reasons:

  • Your child couldn’t qualify for their preferred ‘stream,’ typically IP or G3.
  • Your child couldn’t qualify for their ‘dream’ school.
  • Your child narrowly qualified to take subjects at the G2 or G3 level.
  • As a family, you worked hard to prepare for the PSLE, but couldn’t achieve the desired outcome.

To begin your family’s journey of healing and fostering a positive attitude for new beginnings, consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Accept all Feelings: It’s normal for you or your child to feel disappointed, especially since our education system is known for being demanding. Or you may feel dismayed that your child is satisfied with their ‘average’ or ‘poor’ results and doesn’t share your concerns — instead of reiterating the message that your child needs to buck up, try to accept that everyone’s feelings are valid.
  • Reframe the Situation: If your child feels disheartened by their PSLE results, encourage them to view the exam not as a final judgement, but as a stepping stone in a lifelong journey of personal growth. It’s also important to examine your own biases and the attitudes of those around you. While we often tell children that grades don’t define their worth, we must be careful not to internalise the belief that higher scores equate to greater intelligence or guaranteed success. Each child’s path is unique, and success takes many forms.
  • Focus on Developing Interests: This is the time to help your child identify their strengths and interests — do they like coding, are they fascinated by design, or do they have a deep interest in medical science? Get them involved in enrichment activities that will nurture these interests. The aims can be to pick up essential skills, join competitions for exposure, or develop personal projects that can be viewed online. Ultimately, the goal is to build your child’s confidence, which can translate to other areas like schoolwork. Having clear interests will also help your child to be more intentional when choosing subject specialisations and exploring post-secondary pathways.
  • Evaluate Your Child’s Study Skills: Why did your child underperform for the PSLE? Perhaps they didn’t fully understand the material, didn’t allocate enough time for effective revision, were not familiar with the question formats, froze when they encountered tricky questions, or rushed through the papers without attention to detail. Chances are, it’s a combination of these factors. Discuss this with your child and identify the top areas for improvement. For instance, if your child did have sufficient practice leading up to the exams, it’s likely that the issue lies with understanding the material and attention to detail. If you are looking for tutoring support, look for someone who can not only explain concepts clearly, but also provide techniques for improving concentration and precision.

“My child didn’t get his preferred secondary school, and the whole family feels upset about this.”

Such disappointments are a natural part of life, and while they can be difficult, they also provide valuable opportunities for growth and learning. Here’s some advice on how you can handle this situation:

  • Acknowledge the Disappointment: It’s important to recognise and validate everyone’s feelings of disappointment. Allow your child (and yourself) to express these emotions in a healthy way, such as through open conversations where everyone can share their feelings, or journaling to privately process emotions.
  • Focus on the Positives: Help your child to see that while they may not have gotten into their preferred school, this doesn’t define their future success. Many successful people have thrived despite not attending their first-choice school. Encourage your child to look for positive aspects of the school they will be attending — this could be a unique programme (e.g. the school has a four-day week, with co-curricular activities on Fridays), or the opportunity to meet new friends.
  • Encourage Open-mindedness: Remind your child (and yourself) to be open-minded about the new school. Often, our preconceptions don’t match reality, and your child may find the experience more rewarding than anticipated.

“My child’s PSLE score just met the cut-off point of her secondary school. I’m afraid she won’t be able to keep up.”

Sometimes, getting into one’s dream school can be a double-edged sword. While it’s a cause for celebration, it can also bring apprehension about future challenges. Here’s how to approach this situation:

  • Focus on Strengths: Remind your child (and yourself) of the strengths and abilities that got them into the school in the first place. Confidence in their own skills is crucial for success.
  • Set Realistic Expectations: It’s important to understand that there might be an adjustment period. Success doesn’t have to mean being at the top of the class; it can also mean making steady progress every day.
  • Encourage a Growth Mindset: Foster a growth mindset in your child. This means emphasising effort and learning over innate ability, and understanding that intelligence and skills can be developed with time and practice.
  • Stay Involved: You may want to join the class WhatsApp group, as well as connect with your child’s teachers to stay updated. 
  • Provide Support: You can use the school holidays to put together a list of recommended tutors or enrichment schools, but don’t jump in too quickly to offer help — give your child a chance to learn independently.

“My child’s older sibling did better for the PSLE, and my child feels inferior. I’m afraid this will affect his morale in Secondary 1.”

In such situations, it’s essential to address these feelings early and reinforce the idea that every child is unique and has their own strengths. Here’s how you can support your child:

  • Emphasise Individual Strengths: Highlight your child’s unique talents and achievements, irrespective of academics. It’s important they understand that everyone excels in different areas.
  • Avoid Comparisons: Don’t compare your children, either in conversation or in your expectations. Be clear about the fact that you value your children for who they are, not just for their achievements.
  • Foster a Supportive Family Environment: Ensure that your home is a safe space where your child feels comfortable discussing any hurtful incidents, and can receive supportive and constructive feedback. You could also ask your extended family members to refrain from making comparisons between children, and instead encourage them to recognise and praise each child’s efforts.
  • Teach Resilience: Equip your child with strategies to handle potentially discouraging comments from others. This can involve roleplay activities where you come up with positive or neutral responses to unsolicited comments. At the same time, help your child to understand that sometimes people make thoughtless remarks without intending harm. Teaching them to view comments from a broader perspective can reduce the impact of such remarks.

“I’m planning to return to full-time work, since my child will be more independent in secondary school.”

This transition can be a significant change for both you and your child. Here are some steps to ensure a smooth adjustment:

  • Discuss the Changes: Talk to your child about your return to work. Explain the reasons and how it might affect the daily routine. This helps in setting realistic expectations and preparing them for the change.
  • Establish a Routine: Before you start working, establish a new routine that accommodates your work schedule and your child’s school timings. This could include setting specific times for meals, homework, and family activities. Be sure to also set guidelines for screen time.
  • Encourage Independence: As your child steps into secondary school, encourage them to take on more responsibilities, such as managing their homework and preparing simple meals. This not only aids their personal development, but also eases your transition back to work.
  • Set Up a Support System: Ensure there is a support system in place for your child. This could be in the form of after-school programmes, a responsible family member, or a trusted neighbour who can be there for your child in your absence.
  • Maintain Communication: Regular check-ins, whether in person or via phone, can help you stay connected and aware of your child’s day-to-day experiences and challenges.
  • Prioritise Quality Time: Make the most of the time that you have with your child. Plan for special activities or regular family time to maintain your bond.

Want to talk to other parents about preparing for Secondary 1? Join our parent networking groups, or see what parents are discussing in our academic support section.

Tue 12/12/2023