Managing new rules and expectations

Starting secondary school can be a difficult time for students as they negotiate and manage new school rules. They may also feel overwhelmed by the size of the school and by their new subjects, and feel pressure to meet the expectations of their teachers, parents and themselves. Things they may have found manageable in primary school may start to feel quite challenging, which can impact on their confidence, self-efficacy, motivation, and levels of stress and anxiety.

Teachers and parents have an important role to play in supporting students. Setting clear and realistic expectations, involving students in this process, and giving them opportunities to practise new skills are practical strategies to use.

Top tips for supporting your students

  • Use classroom management strategies that promote safe, supportive, respectful and connected classroom environments. Avoid isolating and embarrassing students and using disrespectful language.

  • Set clear and realistic expectations for class work, exams and assessments. Share help-seeking strategies students can use if they feel overwhelmed with the school rules.

  • Involve your students in writing classroom rules and expectations. This will increase their ownership and understanding of the rules.

  • Sit, listen to and try to understand your students’ perspectives and needs. Normalising the fears and challenges students experience when starting secondary school can minimise their impact.

  • Equip students with the skills and tools to be able to meet the school’s expectations. Students may need support with goal setting, organisational skills, decision making, and managing emotions and setbacks.

Classroom activities

‘Ways to chill for cheap’ exercise

This activity provides students with an opportunity to discuss different ways to chill out, and provides teachers with ideas for creating self-care opportunities for students at school.

Physical life

Sometimes when things are becoming overwhelming, students can stop taking care of themselves. Exercise is important; it not only gives students a break, but also releases endorphins.

Releasing the tension

One of the body’s reactions to fear, stress and anxiety is muscle tension. This can result in feeling ‘tense’, leading to muscle aches and pains, as well as leaving some people feeling exhausted. This exercise uses progressive muscle relaxation to help students notice, release and manage muscle tension, and feel less stressed.

Three good things

The 'three good things' activity encourages students to share good things that have happened in their life with other students, which can help build relationships and connections.

Growth mindsets: Learning to walk

As a class, record and reflect on skills and activities that students have mastered during their life so far, but that had taken time, effort and patience to achieve.

Resources for students

ReachOut works with young people across Australia to develop content. You could share some of these resources with your students.

7 tips for dealing with change

Dealing with change can sometimes be uncomfortable, stressful or even scary. Learn more about some things you can do to make coping with changes in your life a little easier.

A step-by-step guide to problem solving

Having to deal with problems can be difficult, making you feel paralysed and out of control. Whatever the scale of your issues, there are steps you can take to feel more in control. And while you might not always make the right choice, you can learn how to feel comfortable with the decisions you make.

How to manage your time

School work means managing a bunch of competing deadlines. It can be overwhelming and may sometimes feel impossible. Figuring out the best ways to study means developing strategies for planning your time that will help you to stay calm, organised and on top of everything.

What is peer pressure?

Giving in to pressure from your friends to do something you normally wouldn't do can leave you feeling guilty, regretful, ashamed, embarrassed or even frightened. Learn more about what peer pressure is and how to handle it, including what to do if things get serious.

Resources for parents and carers

ReachOut works with parents across Australia to develop content that helps them to support their young person. You could share some of these resources with your parent community.

Transitioning to secondary school

The transition to secondary school can be scary for both parents and their children. Suddenly your child is the little fish in the big pond again, and there are new rules and responsibilities for you both to learn. You can make the transition as smooth as possible by using our ‘Transition to High School’ checklist.

School, education and teenagers

Your child may feel under pressure to perform well in exams, maintain a healthy social life, and start making decisions about the rest of their life. It’s normal for teenagers to go through rough patches at school, but if you’re worried about your child, there are things you can do to help.

How your teen can manage distractions

If you or your teenager are struggling to manage all of the social media, gaming and other study distractions they have to deal with every day, ReachOut has some ideas on how you can help them to help themselves.

Help your teenager to recognise bad friendships

We all hope that our child's friends will provide them with support and understanding, and be genuinely concerned for their wellbeing. But sometimes you may worry that some friends might be having a negative influence on them. Learn more about how to help your teenager through negative friendships.

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