Life constantly changes. If you have been a parent for more than a few weeks, you have probably already realized that the minute you figure out the best way to handle something your child is doing – they move on to something new. For your child, all of that change can be even scarier. They don’t have the life experience yet to realize this transition will most likely lead to bigger and better things. Or that even though it doesn’t, they can survive and even thrive with a little help.
As a parent watching your child begin to struggle as they approach and move through transitions can be emotionally tough on you, too. Often fears bring tears and we all hate to see our kids cry. Yet, we can hold the secrets to helping them handle their transitions with a little more confidence and hopefully a few less tears.
So what can we do to help our kids as they approach a transition? Here are some of my favorite tips.
- Ask God for help. Cover the transition and your child with prayer. Remind your transitioning children on a regular basis that you are praying for them and the transition. Encourage them to pray. If they want a little extra prayer, encourage them to invite friends and relatives to pray about the transition also.
- Share what God has to say about transitions. Share stories of young people like David who went from shepherd boy to giant slayer to living in King Saul’s palace playing music to soothe the king. Or the Israelites leaving Egypt. There are so many stories of transition in the Bible. Some people handled those changes well, while others didn’t. Talk about what seemed to work and what didn’t. Find verses about fears, anxieties and trusting in God to place around your child or for everyone to memorize.
- Remember personality plays a role. Some kids will actually get excited about the idea of change. They love the idea of exploring new and uncharted territory. To them, life is an adventure and a transition just means a new adventure. I was and still am one of those who views most transitions as exciting. Even those of us who love adventure though, won’t find every transition easy. On the other hand, if you have a child who appreciates the familiar, transition can be distressing. Transition means changes and this personality type likes to take change slow and easy – which is not always possible. Remember, each child will be on the spectrum from change loving to change hating and each of your kids may occupy a different spot on the spectrum. There is no right or wrong – it’s just the way God created each child.
- Listening is crucial. Some kids will immediately open up about their fears, concerns or excitement. Others will hold it in and not share unless prompted. Give each child plenty of opportunities to express their feelings about the transition. This is especially important if it is a complex transition. Their feelings may change from minute to minute and as each part begins to happen. Listen carefully for concerns and emotions – it will help you understand how to best help each child through the transition.
- Planning and detailed information can help. If your family is moving, find photos of the new town. Research fun things to do there. The younger the child, the more important it is that the information is concrete – like photographs or taking a walk through a new school they will begin attending in the future. The fear of transition is often a fear of the unknown. The more you can fill in those blanks for them, the less stress many children will have.
- Brainstorm coping strategies. Sometimes a transition can be eased by knowing you can go visit old friends, or keep a calendar crossing off the days until “relief” is in sight. There are lots of ways to help comfort children who are concerned about transitions. Letting your child make suggestions is helpful, because they often know better than anyone what will help. Make sure your strategies include plenty of healthy food, exercise and sleep. If any of those areas is suffering, the transition will seem much worse.
- Get outside help if needed. Some children may become so stressed or depressed about a transition, they need professional help. Watch for signs of poor adjustment and ask your pediatrician for the appropriate referrals.
Whether your child is 2 or 22, transitions seem to come regularly. Being better prepared to help your child through transitions can make changes easier for everyone. It’s definitely worth the time and effort.