Present security when helping children with transitions

Published 9:01 am Sunday, October 2, 2016

QUESTION: My daughter struggles with change. How can I help her handle transitions successfully?

ANSWER: Children rely on the security of the familiar to continue learning and communicating. When the environment becomes overwhelmingly unfamiliar, as in the case of moving to a new home, or perhaps adapting to their parents’ divorce, children may become disoriented and frightened — just as adults do.

The best kind of change occurs when children are able to understand how experiences are different from one another and how they are alike. It is important to help our children learn that there are similar patterns in life which can be used in problem solving. Most new experiences are not entirely new. Transitions in life are manageable because, although change is present, not everything changes at once and we can apply knowledge from the past, things we have already experienced, to current challenges.

For example, sometime in life, your children may have to cope with being unexpectedly separated from you. That is why it is wise to arrange for your children to experience periodic separations, so they learn how to ask questions, verbalize needs and trust other adults. Babysitters help prepare children for pre-school. Pre-school helps prepare children for school. Trips with grandparents or the family of a good friend help prepare children for camp. Camp helps prepare children for a college dorm.

There are life scenarios where the specifics change, but the pattern remains the same. Kevin loses his spelling homework. Kevin can cope with this. He knows his English teacher. He can speak with him. He has a free period during which he can re-do his spelling homework. Janey has just had a quarrel with Beth.

Janey does have other friends. She can confide in them until she figures out a way to patch up things with Beth. Kevin will lose other things in life. Janey will quarrel with other people who are important to her. If they learn useful coping strategies now, as children, they will be able to use those same strategies for years to come.

Our role as supporters and encouragers, whether we are parents, grandparents, teachers, or pastors, is to be the consistent resource people in our children’s lives. We need to be able to define what’s the same and what’s still available, even when the circumstances are unexpected or the location is new.

If you would like to talk about the challenges or raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-0528.  For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.  Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org and free resources at the Parenting Resource Center Specialty Library (105 First Street SE, Austin).