Anxious School Student Teenager

Transition to high school

Transitioning to high school can be an exciting time and full of new experiences, but it can also be worrying and challenging for many young people. These worries are all normal. High school also means a move from the familiar to the unknown, and a whole new way of doing things.

New social expectations

High school is a time of major social growth and going from being the oldest students in primary school to being the youngest in high school can be scary. Many students worry about their ability to fit in, make new friends and establish their position within a peer group. 

New academic expectations

Young people can also worry about handling the extra workload. They need to adapt to new teaching and assessment styles, cope with a wider range of subjects, and adjust to having different teachers in different classrooms. Students are expected to become more responsible for their own learning.

Getting around 

Young people have to adjust to a new school campus, find their way around, get to class on time with the right books and materials, and possibly cope with new transport arrangements.

Longer days

The days at high school can also be longer and more tiring, possibly due to sporting commitments before or after school and using public transport for the first time.

Changes in body

The hormonal changes that accompany puberty and drive physical, emotional and cognitive growth can be confusing and overwhelming.

During such significant changes, it is not uncommon for new high school students to feel: 

  • Anxious that he/she will not fit in
  • Worried that he/she will not be able to cope with new demands
  • Nervous about learning new routines, making new friends or wearing a new uniform
  • Unhappy and lonely until new friends are made
  • Sad about missing old friends and their old school
  • Lost and confused

Signs of stress

The young person might show their stress in the following ways:

  • Headaches, stomach pains, feeling ‘jittery’ or not wanting to go to school
  • Changing behaviour such as rebelling, being silly or withdrawing
  • Not wanting to talk
  • Being disagreeable
  • Being irritable and short-tempered

Questions or things to consider when deciding on a high school

  • What are the unique needs of my child and will this school meet those needs?
  • How does the school support students who have academic, social or emotional difficulties?
  • What is the school’s approach to student discipline? 
  • What is the school’s approach to student safety and bullying?
  • What electives, sports, and service opportunities are available?
  • How does the school measure individual achievement and progress? 
  • What is expected of my child with regards to homework?

Parent Line counsellors can help you if you are worried about how to support your teen.

About Parent Line NSW

Parent Line is a free telephone counselling and support service for parents and carers with children aged 0 to 18 who live in NSW.

Call 1300 1300 52

More Advice + Tips

Common concerns for parents with teenagers are:


  • Teen mental health
  • School and study issues
  • Managing technology use
  • Alcohol and drug issues
  • Strategies to build positive relationships