My youngest is starting high school in February, so I thought we’d gather some tips for Year 7 kids from older friends. It actually physically hurts me to write such a ridiculous sentence. How can all three of my babies be in actual big school? That makes me very… old.
It also makes me very prepared, because this isn’t our first rodeo. My eldest is heading into year 10 and middle into year 9. Already they’ve had lots of tips for Year 7 (both helpful and WTF) for their little sister. In many ways, advice from older kids is the most reassuring for kids heading into Year 7.
As for the mums, it’s not that long ago that I was feeling totally overwhelmed by the whole high school thing myself. I wrote this during that time:
These days, I’ve learned that you don’t have to be as ‘on’ as a high school mum. Primary school is all about staying on top of notes and checking homework and calendar dates. High school is more about checking in with your kid. The rest is really up to them.
Mind you, I suspect that we are rather slack in this department, so you do what you’ve gotta do. My kids do well at school, but they’re not those ‘outstanding’ kids who are into everything and top all their classes. Perhaps a little more attention might lift my kids up to be like that, but we’ll never know. It’s all about learning responsibility and self-motivation at our place.
So, sit back a little and enjoy the summer – your baby will be fiiiiiine. And if you’re still worried, hopefully these tips for Year 7 will soon see you right. This is what older kids want Year 7 kids to know about the emotional side of school…
“The kids who take a moment to check out the high school playground and see who’s who are the ones who adjust the fastest. Some of these kids come in and from day one they are loud and aggressive. That’s going to turn off their peers and really, really annoy older students. So my advice is to just take it all in for a while and get comfortable before you try to make yourself known.” – Emma, Year 10
2. Make a good first impression
“I reckon they aren’t supposed to, but most teachers will get your number from day one. So if you’re rude or muck up in the first couple of weeks, you’ll never live that down. Believe me, I know!! Just treat the teachers and the classroom with respect and you’ll get so much more out of being in class.” – Adam, Year 11
If you’re rude or muck up in the first couple of weeks, you’ll probably never live that down.
3. Be yourself
“When you’re in Year 7 and 8, and maybe even Year 9, you think you have to be like all the other kids to fit in. But it’s not true at all. Kids respect other kids who are just being themselves, even if they are a little bit different. Let’s face it, you can’t ever really hide your crazy ways anyways, so it always backfires on you. Just be yourself.” – Leon, Year 10
4. Show respect
“Older years at school can make your life miserable in the playground if we don’t like you. We don’t like younger kids who have no respect for the fact that we’re older and know a bit more about life. If you don’t want to draw attention on yourself, it’s best to step off the path and not expect an older kid to.” – Damo, Year 9
5. Have lots of friends
“I made the mistake of having only one or two best friends in Year 7, and it was really lonely when we had fights. I definitely think it’s better to be friendly and make friends with as many girls as possible. Do this early, before all the cliques form.” – Anna, Year 10
“There is a bunch of stuff happening in every school that Year 7 students can be involved in. If you’re not sure, ask a teacher or your peer leader! You’ll get so much more out of school if you put a lot into it. Find a club or activity about something you love and get in there!!! You don’t have to wait until you’re older!!!” – Sophie, Year 12
7. Be aware of your actions
“Everyone says they’re not the bully, but heaps of kids are. It doesn’t take much to think through what you’re about to say or do before you do it. Ask yourself if it’s mean and then just don’t let it out of your mouth if it is. All the credit from your peers in the world isn’t worth belittling someone else. Believe me, they might act like they think you’re a legend, but inside they just think you’re mean.” – Sonny, Year 9
8. Don’t get in on the drama
“Kids in Year 7 love to make a big deal out of the stupidest things. Don’t be that kid. Just don’t get in on the drama. Just walk away. Or even say, ‘I don’t think that’s such a big deal’ to diffuse the situation. Getting involved is just not worth the anxiety.” – Ciara, Year 9
9. See friends outside of school
“Friendships are strengthened away from all the other kids. Doing fun things together will bond your group. You might think you see them after school on Snap or Insta, but it’s not the same. Get together as a group. Even if it’s just going up to the shops after school to get a snack together. Or go see a movie.” – Annabelle, Year 11
Nothing ever happens that matters in the long run.
10. Laugh things off
“Lots of things will happen at school that make you worry or feel small, but you have to learn to laugh them off. Nothing ever happens that matters in the long run. Just learn to roll with the punches and you’ll get along just fine.” – Sean, Year 10
11. Talk to someone
“But I just want to add that you might not be able to laugh everything off, so go and talk to a teacher or the school counsellor if things are getting you down. No point letting things get on top of you. They are there to help you through school, so just ask for the help if you need it. It’s not that scary because they are trained professionals who just want to see you do well.” – Sean, Year 10
I’m a complete nut freak, plus I’ll never say no to a sweet treat, which is why I couldn’t say no when this healthier pecan caramels recipe came across my desk. Who can ever resist anything pecan?
Today also happens to be Pecan Cookie Day – which is apparently a thing. While I can’t quite pass these pecan caramels off as a cookie, they are very close. They are shaped like a cookie and are definitely just as satisfying as a cookie. So pecan caramels seem like a nice way to celebrate such an auspicious day.
It’s best to eat these pecan caramels as soon as they are thawed as they will very quickly turn too oozy if there’s any kind of heat in the day. Right now, there is plenty of September heat where I live. So, keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy them, then serve and devour.
They make a really nice treat mid-afternoon with a cuppa. They melt in your mouth so beautifully. Which makes any treat an instant hit in my book.
Better yet, get the kids to make a batch of pecan caramels during the school hols for an after-dinner treat. They are sugar-free, vegan, and gluten free yet still taste the biz.
1 cup raw pecans
100g sugar free dark chocolate
⅓ cup cashew butter (raw or roasted)
⅓ cup Lakanto Golden Malt Syrup, or Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener (see Notes)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp flaky sea salt
Find a baking sheet or tray that will fit in your freezer, then line it with baking paper.
In a medium sized bowl, stir together the cashew butter, malt syrup or sweetener, vanilla and flaky salt until thoroughly combined.
Scoop a teaspoon of the caramel onto the lined baking sheet, using another spoon to help remove it – this stuff is sticky!
Press a whole pecan on one side of the caramel blob, then add two halves to the sides. Repeat until you’ve used all the caramel. Place in the freezer for at least one hour, and up to 24 hours.
Once the caramels have chilled, melt the chocolate.
Remove the caramels from the freezer and drizzle chocolate over them, using a piping bag or spoon.
Place the cookies back in the freezer until set, then transfer them to an airtight container and store in the freezer or fridge until ready to serve.
Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener won the 2021 Product of The Year award as a consumer favourite, but you can substitute the malt syrup or sweetener of your choice.
Mums of babies and younger kids seem to share their day-to-day story all the time, but after that — crickets. In an effort to hear more from mums of older kids, we’re sharing this new series called How Mothers Work. We’ve asked mums we admire to tell us how they make it all work — from raising the kids, to doing the job, to living the dream. We hope you’ll pick up some great advice from mums in the trenches along the way.
Al is a multi-genre writer, teacher and speaker with many years’ experience in magazines, newspapers and online publishing. She is also co-host of two podcasts: So You Want To Be A Writer and Your Kid’s Next Read. Little wonder then that Al is known as the go-to for both her expertise and her kindness. She’s exceptionally generous with both.
If all that weren’t enough already (and honestly, when does this woman sleep!?), Al is also the sister of Mumlyfe’s founder Bron.
(That was our disclosure there, and before you start with the “Oh, two ‘writers’ in the family” schtick, Bron wants you to know she’s okay.)
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I’m Allison Tait, aka A. L. Tait, and I’m a children’s author, freelance writer, podcaster and speaker based on the south coast of NSW. I’m married to The Builder and have two boys aged 17 and 14, and an Insta-Famous border collie known as Procrastipup.
I’m lucky to have the flexibility of working from home and have done so since my eldest was born. A ‘typical day’ sees me get my kids up and out of the house, then I walk the dog, and head back to my desk, usually by 9.30am or so.
I might spend the next six or so hours writing, editing or promoting a book, recording a podcast, interviewing other authors for a podcast, working on social media content for a client, creating blog posts or social media content for my own platforms, giving a talk at a school, or, occasionally, working in the garden while I work up a new book idea in my mind.
After school/work, I am often driving my youngest to various sporting practices and fixtures. My 17-year-old drives himself these days, but I used to have his various musical endeavours in the mix as well.
A typical weekend doesn’t look that different a lot of the time. More sport and gardening, less podcasting and speaking, but being a writer is a seven-day-a-week job.
We joke it’s like having unfinished homework every day of your life… but it’s not really a joke.
My working life
I’ve been a professional writer since long before the boys came along. I have remained a professional writer and expanded that into new fields and new spheres. When the boys were young, I wrote in the middle of the night so that I could have time, quiet and space. As they’ve got older, the writing has moved more into focus as my day job.
I cannot imagine my life without either of these things and I am endlessly grateful for both.
I value time spent with my boys. I’m at the pointy end of parenting these days, when they’d rather be doing ANYTHING else than spending time with their mum.
The 120 hours of driving practice, for instance, is a burden, but it’s also a blessing and a gift. I did a lot of those hours and I savour every moment of that time my eldest and I spent together. (Well, maybe not the first 20 or so hours, but once I was sure we weren’t going to actually hit anything, it was.)
The half-hour drive to and from footy practice twice a week gives me the only solid, focussed time I get with my 14-year-old. Sometimes we chat, sometimes we sit in comfortable silence. Either way is fine with me.
I also, conversely, savour time spent alone. I’m a solitary person by nature and I enjoy nothing more than walking with my dog, digging deep into the crevices of my subconscious to winkle out story and character ideas. I do some of my best writing far, far away from my computer.
Little kids versus big kids
I think the main difference is making room. When they’re little, they need you close, to help, to advise, to show them how to do things.
When they’re bigger, they need room to work out how they do things. You’re still there, on call to help and advise, but you have to trust that they remember everything you’ve shown them.
This took me by surprise
Just how capable they can be. Not always. Not every time. But I can see it there.
The other thing that’s really taken me by surprise is the grief I’ve been feeling as my eldest approaches the end of school. He’s ready to move on, move out, and that separation process has been really obvious over the last year or so.
You know your job is to raise them to not need you anymore, but doing your job well has never been so painful.
Some things I’ve gotten right along the way
At my house, parenting is a two-person job, and one thing that The Builder and I have got right, I think, is consistency. The boys don’t always like it, but they know where they are with us. Our expectations are always clear.
Lastly, I am as good at selective hearing as a 14-year-old boy – which is saying something. This has been particularly useful with my actual 14-year-old boy. If I hear the phrase ‘all my friends’ ever again in my life, it will be too soon.
My biggest challenge
I think that trying to raise older kids has been made even more difficult over the past couple of years with the pandemic. The general uncertainty over everyday life seeps into every aspect of their daily lives and it’s so very hard for them to make plans for the future.
I don’t have any tips beyond trying to just be ‘the rock’ they need. Even as they’re pulling away from you, be steadfast.
I watched a documentary recently about Britain’s rock lighthouses – lighthouses built on tiny, craggy, piles of rocks in the middle of some of the wildest oceans in the world.
I reckon that’s what parents are, and have been through the ages.
And then, because this is not a Disney film, he also told me about another Larkin poem called ‘This Be The Verse’, which begins:
‘They f*&k you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.”
I did not keep a copy of this one.
My youngest is more physically affectionate. When he was little, he just wanted to be touching some part of me all the time – my hand, my hair, my lap. I confess it drove me crazy. Now I savour every random hug, questionable teen hygiene and all.
I don’t think you realise how important that statement is until you have older kids. With younger kids, you’re so busy trying to keep them alive and expose them to a million different possibilities and passions that you forget there’s a funny, quirky individual inside there.
You really start to see that individual once they hit about 14, I think. They’re less concerned with pleasing you (oh boy, are they less concerned) and more focused on following their own thoughts and interests.
I do what I can to support their passions.
My eldest is a musician who’s been performing professionally since he was 13, and my role there was just to get him where he needed to go, be a friendly face in the audience when he needed one and trust that he could do it.
I mean, really trust.
When your kid is getting up in front of a large audience, on his own, singing songs he’s written himself, he looks very small on the stage – the only person who can perform up there is him and he will only do it if he wants to do it.
It always blew my mind (and continues to do so) that he wasn’t terrified. I was terrified for him, but I tried to never, ever let that show.
My youngest has always been all about the sports. Which is why I, the least sporty person in the world, has found myself on the sidelines of endless ball sports since he was six.
Training two, three, four nights a week? No problem.
I’ve written a large portion of several of my books while he did soccer/rugby/basketball drills.
I think one of the best things we can do for our kids when it comes to their dreams and passions is to simply not get in the way.
You know what makes me happy? Nutella pancakes. And you know what makes me extra happy? Banana pancakes smothered in a thick layer of Nutella and sprinkled with passionfruit and toasted coconut.
Doesn’t that sound like the perfect way to kick off a weekend? Saturday morning, outside in the sunshine, reading a good book, shoving in your Nutella pancakes breakfast. Especially if the spread is laden on so thick that you leave teeth marks in the Nutella. Oh, happy days! It’s like taking a mini tropical break in your backyard. Sort of. If you close your eyes…
Okay, so this is an easy recipe that puts a tropical spin on your standard Nutella pancakes recipe. There’s the banana, of course. Then you’re adding passionfruit and the toasted coconut.
Toast your coconut
You can buy toasted coconut ready to go from most supermarkets, but it’s too easy to toast your own.
Just put a cup of shredded coconut (or desiccated, if that’s all you’ve got) into a medium-heat pan and keep it moving with a wooden spoon until it starts to turn golden. The smell is a-mazing.
Enjoy this delicious breakfast option – or morning tea, or afternoon tea, or it even makes a great dessert. Or dinner. Yes, let’s have it for dinner.
Tropical banana Nutella pancakes with passionfruit and toasted coconut
Makes: 6 Takes: 30mins
1 cup plain flour (wholemeal works fine!)
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup full-cream milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 over-ripe Australian bananas, mashed
1 cup toasted coconut flakes
olive oil spray
15g (1 tbsp) Nutella per pancake
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, egg, vegetable oil and over-ripe bananas together. Stir the flour mixture into the gooey banana mixture.
Set the oven to 160°C and toast the coconut for 5 minutes or until golden. Set aside. Or, use your store-bought toasted coconut flakes.
Over medium-high heat, heat an oiled frying pan. Take ¼ cup of batter and pour into the pan. Cook until each side is golden brown, approx 1–2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining batter.
To serve your tropical pancakes, spread each one with Nutella®, top with the toasted coconut flakes and passionfruit, and get ready for some morning smiles!
If you’re after a quick and healthy afternoon snack for your kids, these homemade protein balls are perfect. It can be hard getting older kids to ‘snack right’, but if you make it tasty they’ll go for it. A nutritious boost in the afternoon will get them through until dinner. Without them reaching for sugary convenience foods.
Of course, we know that the best way to stop kids reaching for junk food is to not buy it in the first place. Don’t stock soft drinks, chips, lollies or crappy energy drinks. That way, if they want to eat or drink them, they need to spend their own money to buy them. That might be enough to put some kids off.
It also helps to keep plenty of healthy homemade snack options on hand. Recipes that older kids can hopefully make themselves, too!
These homemade protein balls were created by leading dietitian Susie Burrell and they’re super easy to make.
“The ‘good’ or essential fats are important at all stages of life,” explains Susie. “But when energy demands are especially high as they are during adolescence, utilising nutrient and energy rich foods such as nuts and 100% natural nut spreads like Mayver’s, avocado, tuna and salmon is a great way to ensure that growing teens are getting key nutrients including protein, magnesium, zinc and Omega-3’s as well as extra energy for growth, activity and study.”
Aside from filling them up with oatmeal protein balls, Susie has more tips for feeding kids right during adolescence:
Focus on regular protein rich meals and snacks every 2-3 hours. Good options include tuna and brown rice, Mayver’s Peanut Butter sandwiches, healthy bliss balls like my Oatmeal Protein Balls or banana bread, nuts and fruit or Greek yoghurt and granola.
Keep healthy snacks on hand for them to grab quickly.
Know the healthier foods they can pick up on the run such as burrito bowls and sushi.
Include 3-4 serves of calcium rich dairy, iron rich foods and good fats from nut spreads, avocado and oily fish every day.
Avoid sugary drinks including energy drinks and soft drink in favour of water.
Homemade protein balls
Takes 30 mins Makes 12 balls
1 cup rolled oats ⅓ cup Mayver’s Probiotic Super Peanut Butter
¼ cup almond meal
¼ cup sugar free maple syrup ⅓ cup choc chips or peanut butter chips
Whisk together peanut butter and maple syrup. Add oats and almond meal, and mix until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Roll mixture into 12 balls. Store in the fridge.
These balls would freeze well in an airtight container for up to one month. So make a double or triple batch so you always have them ready to go.
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