Moving From School to Further Education: a Parent’s Guide to Support

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Most people experience some big changes during their life. However, change is often difficult to cope with, even when it’s expected. Many young people find it difficult to navigate big transitions, such as the move from school to further education.

Moving on to further education can feel exciting, but it can also be very different from their school years. Young people may experience a range of emotions, including nervousness, excitement, and worry.

As a parent, it’s always hard to watch your child deal with difficult feelings. In these times, parental support can be invaluable, and there are things you can do to help make their journey easier. 

This blog offers some information on how you can support your child with the change from school to further education, and the signs to look out for if they are struggling. It also provides resources for additional support.

Why Is Change Sometimes Difficult for Young People?

It’s normal for young people to find big changes like the transition from school to further education hard. However, there are some things that can make change especially difficult.

Young people may struggle to cope with changes if:

  • they don’t want the change to happen or don’t feel ready for it
  • they feel worried about the unknown
  • they’re finding it hard to let go of something that has ended
  • they feel like what’s happening is out of their control
  • they’re already struggling with other things, including mental health issues

Young people can have different types of worries about the move to further education. They may be anxious about social challenges, academic changes, or changing environments. 

Some concerns that young people may have include:

  • losing their old friends and feeling lonely
  • losing their support network
  • managing their time without the structure of school days
  • doing more independent learning
  • feeling judged by others for being different
  • finding ‘their people’
  • conforming to new standards, social norms, and expectations

What Are the Signs That a Young Person Is Struggling With Change?

Parents are often among the best-placed people to tell when their child is struggling with change. You probably notice quickly when your child is acting differently or have a sense that something is wrong.

However, even for parents, it can sometimes be hard to read or understand what a young person is experiencing. Some signs to look out for include:

  • Changes in sleeping habits, such as finding it hard to wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night
  • Changes in eating, like not feeling hungry or eating a lot more food than usual

These warning signs can come on slowly, or start happening very quickly. In some cases, problems might be short-lived, and it’s okay not to step in. However, if the signs continue or seem more concerning, it’s important to act and support your child.

How Can You Support Your Young Person to Cope With the Change?

One of the most important ways you can support a young person is by speaking with them. Keep talking to them and asking about how they are doing. Be ready to listen to what they have to say with an open mind and without judgement. It can help to communicate non-verbally too, through hugs, eye contact, texting, or other forms of connection.

A big part of coping with change involves knowing what to expect and where to find support. When young people don’t have a clear idea of what’s coming next, everything can feel more daunting.

It might help to speak with your child about some of the myths and realities of further education. There is a lot of conflicting information out there which can be confusing and it might help to clarify what’s true and what’s not.

Some myths and facts that you could discuss include:

  • Some people say that further education will be the best time of a young person’s life. In reality, there are lots of other options open and things to look forward to further on.
  • Young people may feel like they’re expected to be fully ‘grown up’ and have all the answers. In reality, no one expects them to know everything and it’s completely okay to ask.
  • Young people may have been told that making friends is easy. In truth, it can take some time to find like-minded people.
  • Some people think that you find yourself at college or university. While young people may discover new things about themselves, this doesn’t mean they’ll work everything out.
  • Young people may worry that once they’ve picked one option, they can’t change their minds. In reality, they can leave and choose another path – and that doesn’t mean they’ve failed.

It’s important to remind your child that it’s normal for them to feel worried about the change and let them know how courageous they have been so far. At the same time, it’s good to talk about what warning signs might mean they might need mental health support and how they can access it.

Reaching Out for Support

For some young people, the changes that come with the transition to further education may be too much to cope with alone. If they find that they’re struggling with their mental health, they can reach out to others for support. Seeking help isn’t a sign of failure or weakness – it’s an essential part of looking after themselves.

Young people can speak to their GP about their feelings, who can refer them for mental health support. They may also be able to access support through their school, university, or other further education institution. Adolescents can also directly contact mental health treatment centres or programs for young people.

If you feel like things aren’t getting any better and your child isn’t seeking support themselves, you can speak to a GP or your child’s school about what to do next. Explain to them any warning signs you’ve noticed and how they behave. It’s important to take all mental health concerns seriously and make sure that young people get the support that they need.

The Wave – Transformative Recovery Journeys for Young People

The Wave Clinic offers specialist mental health support for young people from our one-of-a-kind centre in Malaysia. Our whole-person approach combines exceptional clinical care with education, community work, and a gap year experience, supporting young people to discover their dreams – and develop the skills to follow them.

We’re dedicated to helping young people find their place in life, helping them to explore different pathways until they find the one that’s right for them. Alongside formal education, we offer the chance to take a variety of vocational courses and qualifications, as well as volunteering opportunities with local organisations. Our programs are built on the values of inclusivity, fairness, and acceptance, guiding every young person to live the future that they deserve.

If you have any questions about our programs, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. We’re here to make a difference.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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