Transitions Are Hard
Anyone who works with children or has children in their life knows transitions can be hard for them. But let’s be honest transitions can be hard for adults as well. We are in the middle of a worldwide transition, major pieces of our lives are in flux and we are all finding ways to handle these transitions. For the children in our lives who have less experience with transitions this time is even more difficult.
Their discomfort will express itself in different ways and honestly not always in the most attractive ways. You may see avoidance, resistance, defiance, whining, stalling, and complete meltdowns. But keep in mind that they may be feeling anxious, scared, overwhelmed, unsure, angry, and sad. They are entering the unknown.
After working with children for many years and living with five of my own for many more, I know that there are a few things you can do to make these transitions easier for them and for yourself. Here are a few ways you can support your children through transitions:
1. Transitions Are Hard
I want to emphasize that just recognizing that “Transitions are Hard” makes all the difference. I can’t tell you how often I have said this in my head as I watch my child have a total meltdown and it makes it so much easier to be supportive. I also say it when I see adults struggling with transitions and it gives me a little more patience.
This is a difficult time for everyone; let your child know that they are not alone. Let them know that you understand their frustration, their fears, and their sadness. Give them an opportunity to share with you. And be patient when you see them falling apart, transitions are hard.
2. Prepare Your Child
Preview what is to come and alleviate fears. Make a schedule, write a social story, make a list, or just simply talk it through. Talk about the things that might go wrong and how they could handle those, talk about the good things that will come out of this experience, talk about how you will support them, and talk about what will happen when the event is over.
3. Find the Consistency
Talk about the things in their lives that remain consistent. Show them the structure that remains even as things change. Talk about family meals, pets, shows they like to watch, games they like to play, holidays, the change of season… We are facing some big changes but it is small in comparison to what remains the same.
4. Discuss Previous Transitions
Discuss previous transitions and how your child successfully accomplished that transition. The first day of school, a new sports team, a new class, the birth of a sibling, a new pet in the home; these were all big transitions. Talk about the skills it took to handle these transitions and praise them for their ability to handle those transitions.
5. Be the Calm in Storm
Try not to react to the defiance, whining, stalling, or meltdowns. Picture you self as the rock and let the waves crash against you and move around you. Let them express themselves and then slowly move them toward the goal. “When little people are overwhelmed by emotions, it’s our job to share our calm. Not join their chaos.” L.R. Knost
6. Praise Good Transitioning
Praise your child as they move through this transition. Be specific in your praise. “I like the way you followed your teacher’s schedule today.” “You did an excellent job getting ready for online school today.”
We are facing a huge transition and transitions are hard for everyone. Emotions will be high, tempers will be short, and patience may be hard to find. Give yourself and your children an extra moment, some extra space, and a lot of extra understanding. Laugh when you can, forgive mistakes, and walk away when you can (although it may not be far). We will get through this transition; we will learn many new skills; we will actually get good at this.
Monica Whalen is the Conference Coordinator at the Network