Help Your Child Through Transitions
Transitions are a necessary part of life that can be challenging for some kids. Dr. Patty Flood, secondary principal at Shalom Christian Academy, shares what parents can do to help ease kids through times of change.
Not all transitions are bad
I remember as a young mother getting advice about weaning my child from her pacifier—an experienced mother put it in perspective when she shared that my daughter wouldn’t walk down the aisle on her wedding day with one, eventually the change will happen. As a fellow parent, you realize that there are times for change and everything has a season. The “big” transitions in a child’s life, such as starting kindergarten, going from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school can be especially daunting. Some students will go through these changes with ease and others will go forward with the brakes clearly in place.
Grappling with change
Even though children don’t think about change at an intellectual level, it doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing the effects of that change. The unexpected can be scary, making children nervous and less confident. They are facing the excitement of trying something new, but also leaving behind something old and comfortable. It is the end of a stage they may have really enjoyed because they have become attached to the ways of last year. How children handle transitions is dependent upon their coping and resiliency level. Because of genetic make-up and life experiences to this point, children react to transitions differently. It’s important for parents to be aware of clues or symptoms that a child is struggling with change—
– Does your child resist the idea of going to school?
– Is your child distracted?
– Is your child experiencing changes in their “normal” or routine behavior?
– Has your child been crying frequently or have stomachaches or headaches that weren’t typically a problem before?
– Is you child nervous or anxious?
– Have you noticed changes in eating or sleep patterns?
Time to Talk
Don’t minimize your child’s fears and don’t be alarmed if your child isn’t concerned about a significant change. Be in tune to your child’s emotions during transitions. One of the most important parts of your relationship with your child is communication—your reaction to your child’s thoughts, fears, outbursts, and dreams will dictate how open they feel in discussing things with you in the future. Just as it says in James 1:19, be quick to listen and slow to speak. Ask for God’s guidance as you have these conversations with your child.
Children often reflect a parent’s attitude. Try to look at the bright side of situations that arise and talk about positive aspects that your child can look forward to. It’s ok to acknowledge feelings of loss if your child brings it up, but don’t dwell on it. Be supportive, attentive, and nurturing—ask your child what their questions or concerns are, then discuss and find ways you might be able to alleviate them. Children benefit from information so share things they will be experiencing such as class projects or field trips that you know about. It’s also helpful to give your child ownership during the transition—letting them make decisions such as choosing school supplies, a backpack, and lunchbox can help them feel positive about the changes.
Where can parents go for help?
Reading and studying God’s Word prepares our mind to think along the channels of God. To soak our thoughts in His word brings a well spring of His knowledge in our hearts so that we can be ready with a response to our child with an appropriate attitude. A powerful tool is parents helping parents. Don’t be afraid to go to parents you trust and ask their opinions on how they walked through certain stages with their child.
At Shalom Christian Academy
Our staff is here to help navigate these times of change—reach out to your child’s teacher or principal for guidance. We work to help kids acclimate to the bigger transitions such as kindergarten, middle school, and high school through orientations and additional activities. Kindergarten and preschool students don’t start the first day of school, instead they have an open house where they can meet the teacher and visit their new classroom. For middle schoolers, an activity night before school starts gives kids a chance to get to know fellow students at a BBQ and play games. Toward the end of the school year, we talk to each 5th grade and 8th grade class about what to expect as they transition into in middle school or high school. I encourage new high school students to be part of Chorale or drama because those electives tend to bond together or join a sport so they have camaraderie. No matter what age or stage your child is in, you can always reach out to our staff for help, prayer, and guidance.
Have a question or comment? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.