parent opinion

'I had 75 new phone alerts': The unexpected overwhelm of parenting kids at high school.

My 12-year-old son started Year 7 this year, at a fantastic public high school. He's doing great, I'm doing okay and as a household we are all taking time to get used to the change. Because while it is a huge change for the kids; starting high school and everything that comes with it, is also a big change for us parents.

There was a time when my kids were tiny, that I would assume this phase of life as a parent was 'easier'. In reality, it isn't as straightforward as I imagined.

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What I am learning as my parenting journey reaches the high school era, is that some periods are more intense than others and that it is unique for every family.

I found the baby years of sleep deprivation and mastitis overwhelming, but I enjoyed the cute routine of toddler mum life. I know other parents that had the exact opposite experience.

And now as we partially leave the safety and security of the primary school era (my second son is only in year one) for the demands of high school, it feels like a new phase of overwhelm has dawned.


Logistically my life is easier; my son makes his own breakfast, gets himself dressed and then makes his way to and from school on the bus. I am super proud of him and yet as I wave him off each morning, my worries centre less around if he has eaten a nutritionally sound breakfast, and more about whether he will be okay in this brave new world we are sending him out into.

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I worry about him catching the right bus and his spinal health now he is carrying a backpack that weighs a literal tonne and contains expensive 'bring your own device' tech. 

I worry about him keeping up with all the homework and the timetable and simply finding his way around the campus. 

I worry about him making new friends and the associated social pressures of high school. 

I worry about the horror stories of online bullying we modern parents see so frequently in the news, and I worry I will miss some important piece of admin that will mean he misses out on an event or activity. 

And the admin that comes with having a kid at high school (when coupled with also having another at a primary school) is a next level overwhelm all on its own.

There is the making sure I have all the correct apps for registering absences, the other apps for ordering uniform or paying the P & C and another one for seeing examples of work. There are newsletters to read and a website to get across and now I also have a Facebook page to keep up with.


During a meeting yesterday, I got an alert for a live stream from the high school swimming carnival. Technology is fantastic, but the alert just made me feel guilty I didn't have time to join in and watch while also working.

On top of the apps and the payment portals, are the important emails with consent forms and information about upcoming activities for both kids and parents. There are committee meetings, school camps, vaccination schedules and social meet ups to add to my diary and organise.


Separate from the official communication tools, are the WhatsApp groups for parents to connect and share their newcomer questions about high school life. While I hope to have some time to meet these parents in real life, I have found all the online alerts and exchanges of information to be a source of anxiety. 

One morning I switched on my phone to 75 new alerts about bus routes and correct leather shoe types. I can see it will be a useful tool in time, but for I had to mute it for seven days while I worked through the first week jitters in my own way! 

A fellow high school mum friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, confided in me how she too was finding this new phase overwhelming

"I'm actually surprised about how stressful it is," the mum of two told me.

"My son has always loved school and even though he's quiet; he's pretty self-confident. But high school has definitely thrown him. 

"There's the weight of the backpack, having to check the schedule for what to pack each day (which we have already stuffed up), taking clothes and shoes to change into for sports, and that if they miss a day they're expected to find out what the work was themselves and catch up.

"There's not much time to chat and get to know the other kids in your class when you've also got to do the actual work and think about where you need to be next.


"He's overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed. There's definitely no hand-holding as compared with primary school!"

I can totally relate.

Like bringing home your baby from hospital, watching a child take their first steps or waving goodbye on their first day of primary school; every stage of life as a parent brings with it a new set of both logistical and emotional challenges. 

But something that makes our lives so much easier is when our kids are happy and really that's all we want right? 

Lucky for me, my son seems to like the independence that high school life brings and he is a responsible, smart kid who will no doubt get used to all the changes over the course of the next few months.

Which just leaves me and my fellow overwhelmed new high school parent friends.

We'll get there. 

I also hope to find my place in those hectic WhatsApp groups and maybe even make some new friends of my own. Hopefully, I can just find some time in our busy household schedule.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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