Tag Archives: transition

New Experiences

Our son got plenty of warnings and reminders that we were going out to dinner last night, whether he needed them or not. We learned a long time ago that our son (now 17) was not comfortable with transitions, often throwing tantrums at the door when we needed to go. He doesn’t do that any more … but we are well-trained. What we learned, by necessity, was that it really helped to draw a map for him, sometimes quite literally, of what was coming, where we would be in a day, or a week, and how we would get there.

Some children can change direction and speed at the drop of a hat, eagerly trying something new, and following their parents with no problem. Others settle into a place and have a mental day-planner carefully laid out (even if the only thing on the schedule is “Keep reading this comic book until I don’t want to anymore”). But all children face new experiences daily and can be easily intimidated by things that adults take for granted.

During the months of May and June, young children are hearing lots about transitions and summer plans that may be exciting and fun for parents but have no meaning for them, because they have no context for new words or new experiences. “You’re graduating!” “Next year you get to go to big kids’ school!” “We’re going to Disneyland this summer!”

By Gustave Doré (1832 – 1883) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gustave Doré (1832 – 1883) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For parents, these all seem like good things, but children can be stressed by the sudden change in routine, the pressure of expectations, and the threat of the unknown. And actually, maybe they know more than we think they do. ‘Big kid’s school’ might sound scary until they learn that they are in fact going to be one of the ‘big kids’ and that’s why they are changing schools! And, while Disneyland might seem like a kid’s dream vacation, your child might only be thinking about the terrifying things in the forest that had to be faced before happily ever after (remember, Disney movies can be scary, so why would a child assume that Disney land is fun?). Sometimes we adults simply use new words without explanation (“graduation”, “celebration”, “vacation”, “camp”) and children generally don’t raise their hands to ask for a definition. We get to provide the definitions, and the map of what to expect. And we might have to do it more than once.

Parents can help children understand that they get to bring familiar things with them into new experiences. “There will be kids your age with you,” “you’ll bring your favorite lunch box,” “we will all be together,” “you can do this”. Dave is 48 and working on his second master’s degree, and he still gets stressed thinking about next year’s classes! Sure, he’s old enough to remind himself that when he gets there, he will have what he needs to face new challenges. But it can be very helpful to remind students (of any age), “You can do it! You have what you need to do well!”

Parents will want to remember that life can feel a lot like the forest in a Disney movie, full of mysteries and shadowy threats. We can make the journey much less stressful by helping children understand what to expect and by walking with them through new places, holding their hands and laying bread crumbs along the way. Sure there are times when our little heroes and heroines have to face things alone, but we adults are the ones who teach a child hope and trust by leading them gently into new experiences so that they learn that they can handle new things on their own.

[This post first appeared on the Parenting on The Peninsula Blog]

Take a Moment

The Great Season has come to an end. Whether we celebrated one of several holy days, or just enjoyed a break from school and work schedules, the time has come for regularity to return and for us to say goodbye to uninterrupted time with our children. You may be sad about this, or (secretly) thrilled to have some time to yourself again! But it’s here.

So let’s take a moment. The holidays are a time of real beauty (pretty lights and all) and also a time of real busyness. We get swept along for much of the holiday, working to get gifts together to make the Special Day really special, prepping for family dinners, and following the whims of kids now home with nothing to do (while older kids and empty nesters do not need our help filling a schedule, they still impact how we live our lives when they are in the house). Everything is kind of upended—mostly in a great way—and it takes some adjusting to return to … what shall we call it? Normality?

From a psychological perspective, stress doesn’t care whether events are good or bad: promotions and layoffs have the same effect on our physical and mental stability, because they knock us off-balance. It’s helpful to recognize that no matter how good the last several weeks have been, we are coming down off of a stressful season. And even if the events themselves were not stressful, the new year is full of transitions, and these alone can be difficult, especially for our children.

If it all possible, take that moment with your children. Sometime in the midst of the transition from holiday time to regular-time, carve out some time to sit in a comfortable place with them, and slow down for a bit. Or, plan on lingering a bit over breakfast, or while dressing before you go out the door. During this time, you can share with your kid what you and she liked about the last several weeks, or what they are looking forward to in the coming weeks. Have a little quiet time: for our teen, questions don’t work so well, so we’ll just grab him and chill on the couch for a bit (we’ll tell him it’s for us, though we suspect he likes it too). You know what will work in your home—clear a little space, make a little time to ease the transition.

To introduce a little ritual at times of transition helps us acknowledge things that often get lost in the shuffle. For some, it’s important to express sadness at the end of a period of special family time. Others, eager for the return to routine and busy work, may need help not leaving family-time too quickly behind. A pause to reflect, be thankful, and look forward … helps family members of all ages ease from one season to another.

This post first appeared on Parenting On The Peninsula’s Blog