How do you handle transitions?
Whether you are an educator, parent, or learner – change gives rise to a tangled knot of responses. Excitement, sadness, anxiety, hope. Transitions can be uncomfortable, even when they are rich with promise and opportunities.
We focus a good deal on the single actual day of “Back to School”. Keep in mind that the highs and lows of transition and acclimation last longer. Leave ongoing awareness open to notice and acknowledge signs of the good moments as well as the more uncomfortable ones. The process of building comfort in a new routine, in a new place, with new people understandably can last for weeks, maybe months, to come.
Here are some quick reminders that I try to bear in mind, and hold space to address, as an educator and a parent:
Validate & Name to Promote Self-Awareness through Change – However it might feel, and however we might want it to feel – transitions can give rise to a range of emotional responses. Start by noticing in yourself, and name the array of feelings honestly. Then find a developmentally appropriate way to share this with the kids around you. Keep an eye on how your kids manage transitions.
Younger kids may have big mood swings – perhaps more hyper exhilaration followed by tantrums in overwhelm, or a sudden crash of exhaustion. Stay ready to adjust plans because the expected pattern may be off schedule. For older kids and teens, they may need to vent or just disengage depending on their coping style. Be there as a listener, and ready with a hug in case they are up for that. You can ask if they want ideas or to hear stories from your experiences with a new school or coping with changes in friends. While we want to encourage and offer optimism, often kids need a clear release and to express themselves uninterrupted first. That might be it. Wait, and then ask what they need from us to help them through the transition. Giving them space to notice and self-advocate promotes a learning moment for them to get to know themselves in an engaged, meaningful way.
2. Patch Remnants from the Last Phase into the Next Phase – When there is a transition out of one place or time to a new one, looking for threads of connection that give a sense of continuity can offer reassurance in a change. Life is rarely all or nothing. For example, some habits and activities from summer time can continue after school has started. Small plans for mini outings can be a welcome release to keep favorite activities from summer ongoing. What might be fun for family or friends? Maybe a water balloon gathering on the next hot day, a trip out for ice cream, or a camp out in the backyard on the weekend. Keep in touch with friends from camp or old schools. Then weave back in to celebrating the unique benefits of fall like apple-picking or leaf piles. Look for ways to try to make school materials fun, creating notebook covers or organizing the binder for school with fresh supplies.
3. Be a Weather Vane for Learners – Are we noticing gusty winds or smooth sailing for our young learners? In educational therapy, we often hear from parents and teachers in early October. By this time, the grace period for transition starts to end if a student is still struggling in some way, and support is being called in. It’s possible that the demand of transition is harder for some learners and families than others. Having an educational therapist in place for support prior to going off-course can help, and it is okay to see how a young person tolerates it on their own for a bit. Either way, staying in connection with the learner so their needs are being met is the important part. Adjustment can be supported on many levels so that students develop a sense that they are capable of weathering the change using strategies designed for their unique self. Feeling centered and on course is important for learning to take place.
4. Stay in Today – For most families, the school year schedule picks up with increased activities, more complicated scheduling, homework, and getting out of the house on a tighter schedule. We can feel this coming and anticipate it in a way that is anxiety-provoking. Taking it one day at a time, or even one hour at a time may be needed. Keep the mental projection in a 24 hour range when possible. Leaving wind-down time in the evening after some prep time for the day that follows can help manage a sense of being ready for the next day, and letting go of the day gone by. Find the window of expectation that supports performance success, then limit the frame there.
5. The GO TO for Well-Being: Eat, Sleep, Exercise, Rest, Repeat – Once again, transitions are a time to revisit the Five Foundational Framework goals. During times of change, they may need some extra attention. This is a moment to prioritize sleep, eating, hydration, exercise, as well as time to take a breath and enjoy some leisure.
Best wishes to kids and grown-ups for a great transition
into a new journey of learning and growth.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
For more ideas on handling transitions large and small: