Q My son is starting back into transition year (TY) and his attitude seems to be that it doesn't count as a school year. He has refused to get back into a routine and still stays up half the night on his Xbox and phone. I'm now afraid that if he gets out of the habit of school, he might never get back into it for Leaving Cert. How do I get him back on track?
David replies: It is still early days in terms of your son and how he actually engages with his TY year. It seems, from what you say, that you risk catastrophising the situation, long before it ever develops. You have already got a vision of him throwing his education away, even though there is no evidence of that yet.
Rather than worrying about his senior cycle and his attitude to his Leaving Cert, it might be wiser to just focus on his TY year. Everything about the start of this school year is unusual, from the restrictions that school have had to propose, to the length of time since pupils have actually been in the structured environment of the school. Your son is not alone in struggling with the transition back to school.
It will be difficult for him to have the energy and focus for a day at school if he is not getting enough sleep. If he is struggling to manage his own sleep, by continuing to be distracted by devices into the early morning hours, then you may need to restrict them on his behalf. That might not be a popular move, or even an easy task, but I think that you and his dad, together, can take charge on his behalf, if needs be.
It might also be helpful to speak with his year head, or with a teacher that your son has a good relationship with. TY is intended to be a year with a much lower focus on academics and a greater focus on social and emotional growth, through the diversity of activities and project work that the school facilitates.
Because of that your son may indeed feel like it is a "year off". Perhaps, again, a teacher that he respects can help him to understand that it remains an important year for his growth and development, and that it is part of the preparation for the next academic challenge of the Leaving Cert. He may hear it differently from someone else. Other adults that our children respect can be a really important source of mentoring and motivation for them.
Your son may need some help to rethink his priorities and to establish some goals. The last six months may have led him to switch off from any acknowledgement that he will, eventually, need to move out into the world and support himself. Rediscovering, or establishing for the first time, some ambition, may help him to see this year as another step towards a longer-term goal.
Again, other people in your extended family or among your friends may be able to inspire him, particularly if there is an opportunity to even experience a potential future job during the work experience element of TY that most schools support. Maybe your own goal just needs to be creating the environment at home that gets him out the door to school every morning, relying on others to help him retain some focus and enthusiasm for the day that follows.