Transitions: Helping Your Child Deal with Change
You can’t underestimate your child’s need to process something that’s life-changing.
Greetings from the Sunshine state!
As we unpack and begin a new chapter in life I can’t help but think about transitions.
We all have them in life, moving to a new town or state, moving up a grade or even graduating. And how we handle these natural transitions in life either helps or hinders our children’s ability to do so.
Our daughter is in 5th grade. So not only is she transitioning to a new state and new school but getting ready to move into middle school. That’s a lot for one kid to handle. But she’s doing a great job. She has her moments and will continue to do so for some time but she’s rolling with the punches.
In my time of working with families I’ve been able to observe a few things that we put into practice several months ago to help her with this move. Let me share a some of them with you.
Communicate early. This one may seem obvious but you can’t underestimate your child’s need to process something that’s life changing. They will need time to adjust to the idea of a move or school change. Whether your child is moving, changing schools or moving on to higher grades they need time to think through their fears. If you wait until the last second to talk you’re not doing them any favors. You will hinder that natural process and cause more anxiety than need be.
Talk to your child. Be upfront and honest in the process. If it’s a move you’re facing involve them early and often. Our daughter always helped as we shopped online for a new house. She was able to have input in the decision and when we found the one we liked was able to pick her room. (It was already painted a dark pink.)
Don’t shy away from hard questions. Our daughter had some hard questions. We always made sure to take the time to have the conversations that she needed. Whether she was asking about leaving her friends and family or what life was going to be like where we were headed we were always honest.
Make sure that when your child starts asking these difficult life questions about a move or going to middle school, high school or college that you give them your undivided attention and answer any and all questions honestly.
If you don’t know the answers then tell them that but reassure them that you will face that uncertainty together. There’s no way you can predict the future so don’t pretend you can. But what you do know is that you will be there for you child regardless of the future.
Validate their fears. Your child’s fears are just that—theirs. Don’t belittle them or make fun. A transition is scary, especially to a young child used to a certain routine. A monkey wrench in that routine can cause all kids of anxieties. And we won’t help those fears if we don’t treat them as important.
So when our daughter has come to us with fears of missing her friends and family we told her it was perfectly natural and normal to feel that way, and that it was even okay for her to have bad days or to get angry. We gave her healthy ways to vent and allowed her time to just cry if needed. She always came to us, even when she was angry or hurt by the move and we were able to speak into that pain.
If you’re facing middle school, high school or college the fears and worries will be different but the lessons are the same. Don’t belittle what they're feeling and give them ample opportunity to share those worries with you. If you don’t give your child a healthy place to vent they will turn to other people who may not give them sound advice or they may bottle those emotions up. And neither of those options is healthy.
Leverage Technology. Steve Jobs was a genius! And because he was a genius we have what was once considered space age tech in our hands. For us, FaceTime is a must! Because most kids today have Ipod Touches people can keep in touch like never before.
So if you’re facing a move where your child and their friends won’t see each other maybe a good investment would be an Ipod. Our daughter saved her allowance, birthday and Christmas money to buy her own last year and now she has the ability to keep in touch with her close friends. She’s been FaceTiming with her friends for some months now and plans to continue once we move. She will be able to talk and see her friends and it will ease her transition to a new town and school.
You can also use Skype. It’s a free video call program that you can download on your computer at skype.com. You can also download the app for free for any smart phone.
If your child is moving off to college these tools plus things like Facebook make it much easier to keep in contact and follow along with someone’s new journey than ever before. As parents, we can leverage the use of technology to our advantage and to the betterment of our child’s transition points.
Life is change. Someone loses a job, there’s a divorce, kids moving up in grades, a move to a new city, a death—all of these circumstances are common place in our world.
But with each change comes unique challenges that you and your family face together. These are merely a few things that you can do to help you and your child/ren through a transition but you know your child/ren best. My advice to you is use what works and can the rest. Ask for help from others that have gone through it before and understand that each child is different and will deal with transitions differently. Allow your child/ren the time they need and use these moments to speak into your child’s heart.
Remember that it’s not the end of the world and that as long as you have each other you have all that you need.