Solihull Approach | Parenting

Navigating the Transition


Published 2 April 2024

Supporting children with additional needs moving to secondary school

Recent studies have illuminated a concerning rise in referrals for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) within our school systems. As every child is different, this means it’s really important children have the right kind of support in school and at home. This can be especially relevant for children with additional or complex needs when preparing and moving from primary to secondary school, which usually comes at a time of significant childhood development between nine and eleven years old. 

As a clinical psychologist and child psychotherapist, I am keenly aware of the anxiety and uncertainty that accompany such transitions, both for parents and children. For parents, the apprehension about how their child will fare in the unfamiliar terrain of a secondary school often weighs heavily on their minds. What’s sometimes overlooked is how children, attuned to their parents’ worries, can sometimes absorb and mirror these anxieties, further complicating the transition process. 

I’m pleased to introduce a new online course titled Moving up to secondary school for children with additional needs. Developed in close collaboration with educational psychologists and informed by the invaluable insights of parents navigating similar journeys, this course aims to provide a reflective space for families getting ready for this next big step. 

At the heart of this course lie the pillars of the Solihull Approach and the concepts of containment and reciprocity. Containment refers to processing emotions; a space where the child’s feelings and the parents’ feelings around uncertainty can be explored and managed. Reciprocity emphasises the importance of tuning into the child’s point of view as well as the parents’. Mutual understanding and support between parents, educators and children is important, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the child’s well-being in the next stage of life. 

Structured as short reflective learning modules, this course allows families to navigate at their own pace and in the privacy of their homes. It delves into practical strategies for preparing children for the academic, social, and emotional demands of secondary school, tailored specifically to their individual needs. 

As with many aspects of parenting, fostering a connected and attuned relationship between parents and children is fundamental to supporting emotional wellbeing. In school, new relationships become important too, with friends and with school staff. 

This new course emphasises the significance of self-care for parents, recognising that their well-being directly impacts their ability to support their child effectively. Through guided exercises and reflections, parents are encouraged to think about their own mental and emotional health, thereby enhancing their capacity to provide the nurturing environment their child requires. 

The transition from primary to secondary school can absolutely be daunting, especially for children with additional needs and their families. But it is also exciting, a new step towards independence and with the right support, it can also be a period of growth and empowerment. 

Dr Hazel Douglas MBE

Director of the Solihull Approach. Clinical Psychologist and Child Psychotherapist

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