Blog Contributor, Family, Lifestyle, Parenting

Transition Time

Summer is a busy time full of adventure and change. For some it may be a transition from one grade to the next, maybe a new job in the family, or maybe even a new place to live. Life is full of transitions like these, so how do we help ourselves, and our kids understand and cope with these changes as they come?

For us, being a military family, we go through a pretty significant change every 3-4 years where we undergo what is called a PCS or Permanent Change of Station. That’s a fancy way of saying that we will be moving somewhere totally new and leaving all that we have come to know for the past few years behind. This is obviously a much harder transition than some, but we have learned that every transition has the same basic needs whether it is time to leave the playground, or time to leave our home.

(Disclaimer: I totally realize that no two kiddos are the same, and what works for us, very well may not be the answer for you. YOU know your child so much better than I could ever hope to, and while I hope the thoughts to follow will be helpful, I encourage you to reach out and try to help your child where they are)

Give a Heads Up

With our 4 year-old son, we have found that giving him a heads up anytime a transition is coming helps him to understand the expectation for change. For quick transitions we count to 20 (mostly because I want him to be able to count past 10) and he knows that whatever instruction he was just given needs to happen within those 20ish seconds so he usually responds by quickly finishing the task.

For a much larger transition like moving, we start talking about it as things come up. For example, I have been selling a lot of items in the house that we don’t want to take with us in our move and some of the things have been harder for him to let go of. For those things, we try to talk to him ahead of time to let him know that they are going to go live somewhere else, and that it is ok for that to happen. Seeing that we are ok with these changes helps him to regulate as well, but sometimes it still takes some reassurance.

Give a Reminder

Who doesn’t need a reminder sometimes? For smaller transitions, a reminder may not be needed, but for bigger ones, sometimes a reminder can be helpful. Having something like a phrase you use as a trigger so your kiddos know what is coming, or for something like a scheduled transition you can try using a measurable visual.

For this move, we chose to print out a month-long calendar to mark off the days with him so he can see something and start to understand the concept of the days passing. Another popular option is to make a paper chain out of something like construction paper and removing a link together each day. A less healthy option I’ve heard of is to use a candy jar with something small like skittles and allowing the kiddos to each have one each day waiting for something to happen. You would need to count these out, and for some families this may not be the best option, but I do like the idea of a sweet attachment to a countdown. Whichever option you choose, be sure to make it a fun, positive experience so everyone sees this change in a good light.

Emotions Are Important

It’s easy to forget that these amazing little people may be having some really big emotions that they aren’t sure what to do with, especially when we are managing some ourselves. Many of us were never taught how to manage our emotions well as children, making it hard for us to do so as adults, and even harder for us to help teach our children the coping skills they will need to carry into adulthood.

The first step is to acknowledge the emotion. Some very young children may not be self-aware enough to tell you what that feeling may be, so you may need to help them work that out. As your kiddo gets older, you can start to explore why they feel a certain way. Having emotions is perfectly normal, and needs to be ok for all of us, and it’s important to recognize that it isn’t an excuse for bad behavior. If you are walking through something like an outburst, then helping them to a healthy coping skill or outlet can make a difference as you go forward.

For our son, sometimes he is in the throes of a really big emotion and much like his parents needs just a couple minutes to calm down a bit before trying to figure out what is happening. Recognizing those moments, and giving him space can go a long way towards diffusing the situation where confronting it while he is so dysregulated can escalate the problem instead. When he is done with his moment, we try to be sure to still be a safe place for him to express what he is going through once he has calmed down some. If we react poorly to his emotions, he may become hesitant to trust us with them.

Establishing healthy patterns for how to deal with emotions, and understanding coping skills like deep breathing, utilizing emotion-supporting essential oils, incorporating music, or choosing visual aids like emotion charts can all be helpful in showing not only our kids, but also ourselves how to care for emotional changes whether your transition is big or small. Let’s raise up people who can understand themselves, and others, and relate to them peacefully.

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