Help Children Thrive During Transitions
The second week of August means there are many transitions in the making. Kindergartners are attending school for the first time. Last year’s fifth-graders are headed to middle school. Eighth-graders who were at the top of the pecking order are moving on to high school and essentially are now the little fish in the big pond. Then there are the seniors, some of whom cannot wait for graduation, while others want to take their sweet time getting there.
Some parents can’t wait for the transitions to occur, while others secretly grieve as they see time flying by, wishing it would stand still for just a little while longer.
No matter where you fall on the transition continuum, the air is typically charged with emotions from excitement, fear and anxiety to anticipation and perhaps feeling overwhelmed. Those with middle and high school-age teens get the added hysteria of hormones in the mix.
As a family, it is possible to have multiple transitions happening simultaneously, each with its own set of expectations and unpredictable challenges which can make any sane parent want to disappear.
Good news, though. Parents can intentionally bring calm to the forefront and help children thrive during times of transition.
- Deal with your own emotions. Sometimes parents can be full of anxiety about an upcoming transition while the child is full of excitement. Be careful not to place your emotions on your child. Find an appropriate outlet to talk about how you’re feeling.
- Acknowledge that change is afoot. Talk about what will be different. Discuss what is exciting and what might be scary about the change.
- Celebrate the milestone. While preparing for a transition can provoke anxiety, there is reason to celebrate the end of one season and the beginning of another. Share the ways in which you have seen your child/teen grow and mature. They need to know you believe in them and that you have confidence in their ability to navigate this new adventure.
- Determine a plan of action. The unknown can be really scary. Helping your child develop an action plan for handling their transition will help build confidence and remove feelings of helplessness.
- Identify your support team. Coaches, teachers, guidance counselors, pastors, youth leaders, mentors, grandparents, other extended family members and close friends can all be part of this team. Don’t assume your child/teen knows who is on this team. Discuss it together and make sure they can identify at least three people other than their parents who are on their team.
- Talk to other parents and children who have already made this transition. Talking with others who have successfully navigated the journey can be both encouraging and enlightening, saving you a lot of heartache and stress while giving you pointers on how to avoid land mines. For children/teens, talking with others their own age who have walked the road can be comforting and empowering.
All of these transitions are a sign of growth for children and their parents. These are great times to teach the life skills that will help your children be resilient throughout life. Instead of trying to avoid them, embrace them and make the most of them.