How your Year 6 child develops

Children at computers
As they look forward to the move to secondary school, what is changing for your Year 6 child?

The last year of primary school is a time of transition for your child. Not only are they having to get their head around the impending move to secondary school, but they’re also experiencing some major physical and emotional changes as they head towards adolescence.

What’s going on in there?

Your year 6 child is likely to seem increasingly grown-up. They’re keen to learn, enjoy school, and have plenty of self-confidence. Your child’s moral code is highly developed with a strong sense of justice, and they will complain bitterly if they think they’re being treated unfairly.

At 10 to 11, your child is a socially competent being who likes to be part of the ‘in group’. “Your child is less dependent on their parents and more reliant on friends, as well as developing an interest in the opposite sex,” says chartered educational psychologist and educational adviser Susan Brooks. Your child has a close social circle and will avoid children who are not in their gang. They probably have one best friend, as well as an adult or teenager who they idolise – perhaps an older cousin or a leader from an extracurricular club.

Although your child is becoming more mature and independent, they’re still close to their parents. They’re typically affectionate with their mother, and fiercely proud of their father. They’re getting better at handling their emotions, and are less likely to be tearful or angry than in the past, although they can be moody and value privacy.

Girls are likely to start their periods during this school year or the next, and boys are beginning their puberty growth spurt, which can lead to concerns about weight gain. “Body awareness is critical at this age, and children are often increasingly conscious of fashion, but they still need guidance on how to dress appropriately,” adds chartered educational psychologist Julia Busch Hansen.

Potential pressure points

During Year 6, the main sources of pressure on your child are likely to come from school and friendships. These include:

  • Choosing a secondary school, and waiting to hear if they have a place.
  • Sitting KS2 SATs and for some children, the Eleven Plus exam.
  • Coping with friendship issues, including bullying, particularly cyberbullying (online or by text).
  • Competing with other children on material grounds, for example who has the best mobile phone or the coolest trainers.
  • Physical and hormonal changes with the onset of puberty.

Warning signs to watch out for

Signs that your child may be struggling with the pressures of Year 6 and of growing up in general include:

  • Tearfulness or angry, violent outbursts.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Body image issues, such as expressing worries about being fat.
  • Dieting or skipping meals.
  • Frequent stomach aches or headaches.
  • Withdrawing from friends and family.