As children move from one grade to the next, they learn to cope with change. Everyone responds to change differently, but children often need extra attention as they go through the transitions back to school, adjusting to new teachers, a new grade, even a new building or to new family structures.
Here are some tips to help a child through transitions.
- Let your child know that change happens to everyone. If there is a family calendar, clearly mark the event and the steps leading up to it, e.g., orientation, supply list, class postings, and doctor/dentist appointments.
- Talk positively about changes at school. If pleasant memories can be associated with the change, such as school shopping for cool weather clothes, going out for ice cream, or a weekend spend the night guest, it makes the transition easier for your child.
- Give your child time to get accustomed to the change. Respect the fact that your child needs time to work through feelings. Be available, but don't force the issue or deny the feelings.
- Make planning for change a joint endeavor. Once your child has turned the corner--that is, has become resigned to the anticipated change--listen to what is important to your child. Perhaps it's a fall outing, or a special time to play with a friend after school, or a weekend visit to relatives.
- Let the transition come naturally without creating undue pressure. Change creates uncertainty, even when viewed as positive. Whether the transition is adjusting to a new school, a new child entering the family, or a sibling going off to college, change can create anxiety and insecurity. Listen for the sources of the anxiety and try to face those positively without denying your child's fears. Say, for example, “I will talk with your teacher on Parent Conference Day, when you have a holiday; or your sister will write and call you from college." Reassuring your child will not take away all the feelings of uncertainty, but it will plant a seed of hope.
Transitions are a part of life for adults and children. The better we can understand the responses to change, the better able we are to help our children.
- Give your child early notice when a transition is coming, including steps leading up to it.
- Make the steps leading up to the transition pleasant experiences for your child.
- Give your child time to work through feelings about the transition.
- Be sensitive to the natural feelings of anxiety that your child may have about change.