families key to supporting young people’s transition to high school

As 320,000 young Australians make the transition from primary school to secondary school from next week[1], headspace is asking family and friends to pay close attention to young people, particularly within the context of COVID-19.

Vikki Ryall, Executive Director of Clinical Practice at headspace, said transition periods can be difficult for young people, and the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community was another complicating factor creating feelings of uncertainty.

“Moving from primary school to secondary school – or from school into further study or the workforce – can be a daunting experience for young people at the best of times,” Ms Ryall said.

“COVID-19 adds another degree of uncertainty to that transition.

“We know young people are among those hit hardest by the events of the past two years. It’s normal that they might feel nervous about being exposed to COVID-19 at school, or about returning to face-to-face learning in a new or unfamiliar setting.”

She said family and friends should trust their instincts if they notice changes.

“Families know their young people best, and they can really support them to get through challenging times.

“Helping your young person plan for the year ahead and get organised can help reduce their levels of anxiety. It also might be helpful to run through some ‘what ifs’ so they know how to handle new situations.

“If families are noticing changes, it’s important to check in and let them know that you’re available if they want to talk. You can also reassure them that significant changes like going to high school might take some time to adjust to.

“Young people are resilient and with the right support can get through challenging periods. But if there’s a young person in your life that you feel might need a bit of extra help, there are services like headspace available to help.”

If you or your young person need further support, you can visit eheadspace (online and phone support), contact your nearest headspace centre or talk to your GP .

headspace has also designed a series of online resources to assist families and friends to support their young person through transition periods.


Tips on how you can prepare your young person for a transition period

You can help equip your young person for the transition to secondary school by: 

• planning and getting organised
• visiting the school and encouraging your child to go to any secondary school orientation days/programs
• doing a trial run with travelling to school, including taking public transport and using a travel card
• inviting older siblings or friends to share information about the school system i.e. timetable, changing classrooms
• practising ‘what if?’ scenarios
• establishing routines including relaxing and fun activities
• Stay connected and interested in your young person’s learning


[1] Based on Schools data from Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020