Change can be daunting at the best of times. Given the uncertainty about school plans for September, it will require an extra dose of flexibility on the part of sixth-class pupils finishing school this week. The absence of face-to-face school for the past three months took many teachers off-side and the preparation that would normally be done in intimate settings was removed.
For the past few weeks, I've been running a webinar on transitioning to second-level which has attracted hundreds of parents and their sixth-class children.
The feedback has been revealing. The main purpose of the talk is to raise awareness about what is a defining moment in a child's life, to discuss and examine ways to support them through it.
So how do we help our children? The evidence is that change is not as scary when young people know what to expect.
Taster days and visits to their new second-level school, where this happened, are very helpful. But it also helps to make this topic personal and to tell your story to your child. It's good to think back, so that you can walk in their shoes - don't be afraid to share memories about what you found easy and hard about your own transition, And, importantly, how you coped.
What are the key changes your child will experience?
It could be summed up as ''more of everything'' - lots of new faces, more teachers, more students, more classes, even more lockers.
There are increased workload changes, with homework now being assigned by a number of teachers each day instead of just one. More tests, including classroom-based assessments as part of the Junior Cert and the need for the young person to be organised and to begin to take responsibility for their own learning.
These are significant changes after the intimacy of one dedicated teacher in primary school. This culture change is sometimes referred to as ''big fish, little fish'' - the senior pupils in primary school a few months ago are now the juniors in their new secondary school.
Alongside all of this comes the longer school day; perhaps travelling on a bus/train means they will be more tired until they adjust to their new timetable.
Being accepted by their new peer group is hugely important to them. Managing friendships - making, losing and maintaining friends while all part of growing up can sap a lot of energy and deflect from their schoolwork. Likewise, managing social media is a big challenge.
And just when you think this is quite enough for anyone to handle, add in puberty! It's a time of rapid brain development and identity formation, with many emotional changes for boys and girls. Each change needs to be discussed and prepared for so it doesn't come as a shock.
Listening to their concerns is vital. Having asked pupils what they are looking forward to and what they are worried about, it is quite normal to hear they are excited and nervous simultaneously.
Many list being excited about making new friends, changing classes, more sports, school teams, the canteen and studying new subjects. Common worries listed include being lost or late for class, losing friends, being left out, bullies, getting into trouble, homework, study and tests.
So how can you prepare your child to cope?
There are practical first steps: parents should walk the child through a map of the school, always know where reception is if they get lost, look at the timetable together and discuss which books they need with them before break, after lunch etc.
Ask them how they would like to organise their locker, their sports gear, their room for study purposes.
Give them autonomy to tell you what would help them. I recall my son asking for big boxes to separate his stuff.
Agree an evening homework routine. Visit the NCCA website and download the pupil passport which invites the child to complete a one-page profile about themselves. This is useful. They can carry this with them and provide a copy for each of their teachers if they are having difficulty communicating. Likewise, the parent can also complete ''my child's profile'' from their perspective.
Practical things aside, the real answer to coping with change lies in upskilling your child to be stronger emotionally and socially, so they can be more resilient, and learn to bounce back from setbacks. These are lessons that will serve them their whole life.
As parents, we have busy lives. Make an extra special effort to be more available from September to Halloween to help them settle in and get the new routine going.
Remember - your job is not to fix things or to remove frustration, anger, worries or disappointment. Your job is to create the safety for them to feel it so they can deal with it. You give them their wings!
Fidelma Healy Eames is a teacher educator and director of study and careers, specialising in learning to learn - www.studyandcareers.ie