The world is going through a huge transition. In the US, letting go of Obama and taking on Trump! In the UK, letting go of being in the EU and standing alone. In our own lives, letting go of our comfort zone and taking on new ideas and challenges.
We all go through transitions like this all the time. For example, when we change jobs, move home or even buy a new laptop.
What Is A Transition?
A transition is a period of time, a state, a subject, a concept, being in between the not knowing and knowing that you need to change and actually changing. Changes can be sudden like the political scene, or gradual like overcoming an illness, and last for different periods of time.
For some, these transitions can be difficult and traumatic, however, for others, transitions are exciting. So how is it that some people find it easy and others find it hard? Well, I think it stems from childhood.
Transitions In Children
The key educational transitions that I have seen as a teacher, that are traumatic in children, are when they move from one year group to the next. Nursery to reception, Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 and when they go from Year 6 to Year 7. These describe intellectual transitions but there are also emotional (e.g. bereavements, divorce or parental issues), physical (e.g. moving home or school) and physiological transitions (e.g. going through puberty or a medical condition). Their capacity to cope with change is a component of mental health.
- Starting nursery
- Illness of a member of the family
- Changing friends
- Starting primary school
- Death of a family member
- Coming out as lesbian or gay
- Starting secondary school
- Separation from parents
- Diagnosis of Illness
- Changing school
- New siblings
- Diagnosis of disability
- Moving house
- Moving through year groups
- New step-parents
- Entering care
- Foster parents
- First exams
- First sexual experience
- Living in a new country
- Change of class teacher
- Change of head teacher
- Movement around school
- Transitions within classes
- Supply teacher
- Living with the illness of a family member.
Source: Young minds.org – 2016
How Does This Impact Children?
If children are unsupported during transitions, trusting adults and managing their strong emotions becomes difficult. They find it almost impossible to ask for help or they will manifest behaviours where they become the centre of attention because they are unable to deal with the underlying anxieties. Even children that seem to appear to do well, will be thrown by transitions.
It is important to have a range of strategies to help to develop resilience and manage stress during this time. We must also reduce the risk of failure because our early experiences can be triggered at any time in our lives with whatever new changes we have to cope with.
What Are Some Strategies? How Can We Help?
During these times of transition, if children experience warm, consistent, reliable care with their thoughts and feelings then they are able to cope with the new beginning. Unfortunately, if adult responses around the time of children’s transitions are not addressed adequately, then children find it really difficult to cope.
5 Strategies To Help Your Child Through Transitions
- Be aware of the different transitions that children face on a day-to-day basis – see above list. Help them by prompting things that are likely to be different in your usual timetable.
- Become aware that when children are in an unstructured and unexpected situation, they will need support as they will feel disorientated and unable to cope. Speak to them, tell them what is likely to happen, answer their questions and acknowledge their anxieties.
- Have some family time to talk openly about any changes that you may have had (e.g. moving home, death of a pet).
- Notice when your child is getting distressed most – perhaps during the morning routine just before school, at home time or during lunch times. Use this information to target how to support them at these times.
- Contact me for individual help on supporting your child (or even yourself) through transitions.
The Parent-Child Relationship Is Extremely Important
When children are very young, remember that their first relationship with their parent creates a template to understand the world by and becomes the framework for their beliefs and values.
Every new beginning involves letting go of the old, known place – our place of comfort. But, every time you help your child to let go of their old beliefs and fears, you are also laying the foundations for them to be resilient for any future changes and eventuality.
My Personal Transition
Recently, I have been going through some kind of transition and I have begun to notice a pattern that happens most when I have come to the end of a project. You may have seen my post on Facebook? I have now finished writing my book and I felt overwhelmingly sad. I’m not usually very good with endings and for some reason, I find myself getting into the same pattern of feeling really down and depressed. I have learnt to become aware of this and reframe the topic in my own mind and focus it as a new beginning. However, it has taken therapy and support to get to that state.
If you are an adult who is finding your transitions difficult in life, then there is help. You really don’t have to cope on your own. I can help. Call me on 07792 611 406.
Sign Up For A Free Copy Of My Upcoming Book, “No Child Is Broken”
Click here and leave your details to receive your free copy, which goes into detail about different emotions. It contains easy step-by-step lesson plans you can run through with your child to learn more about handling emotions through transitions. Thank you!