Managing the New Term Transition

Transitions, the comings, and goings ( Attachments and Separations) are all part of life. Due to the pandemic, this cycle has dominated the year more than ever before. In reality, families, children, and life are always changing. Even though we may long and yearn for it, there is no permeance in life. Hence, managing this years new term transition may be even more anxiety-provoking.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, you or your child is likely to feel a range of emotions, including anxiety. Due to the difficulty children have expressing their feelings, you are more likely to see their feelings reflected in their behaviours. 

What behaviours you may notice:

  • Your child may be clingy, wanting you to be really close
  • Disturbed sleep, nightmares, early waking
  • Aggression, hitting, kicking, tantrums
  • Regressing, so they feel much younger
  • Withdrawing, being quiet
  • Your teenager may talk about wanting to avoid going to school or university.
  • Going off their food or eating too much.
  • Complaining of tummy aches, headaches, constipation or bedwetting

How long should these feelings last?

These reactions and feelings should not last a long time. They often resolve once you and your child have settled with the transition. However, if there is an additional sudden change, such as a bereavement in the pandemic, or illness or multiple changes occur at once, such as divorce, new school, the new partner, it may all be too much and the anxiety may continue. Sometimes, it can manifest as Separation Anxiety or Social/School Phobia.

It’s important to understand that children like adults have very mixed feelings about certain transitions. They may want to leave nursery and start school but may also be sad to say goodbye to the safety of nursery or junior school.

How you can help your Child

  • Always start early, if you know that your child may struggle with a new school transition. Arrange more visits to the nursery or school. Some children need many opportunities to feel safe. Always contact the SEN teacher and arrange a meeting. For older children, ensure that they have a friend they can go to school with. The older the child the more they will be influenced by their peers rather than you.
  • If they suffer from separation anxiety, identify an adult ( a safe attachment figures) they can meet and develop a relationship with prior to starting. It is not helpful if you are anxious to have multiple attachment figures.
  • Develop a simple plan, hug, goodbye, and handover to a teacher.
  • Remember reassurance does not effectively manage anxiety, mastering the feelings, having a plan and coping skills do.
  • Talk about what feelings they may have, even younger children need their feelings named and acknowledged.
  • Help them to ask for help, identify who would be the best adult to talk too
  • Help the transition with a transitional object. Something of yours to keep if they are worried about being away from you. This is good for children whose parents separated or if they’ve lost a parent or even grandparent.

You could say:

 I know it might be strange to leave mummy or not be at home but I know you are going to be fine once you are there. Let’s think of something you can bring in to help you feel safe. What can I do to help you?

Examples of Transitional Objects

It’s just an object that helps your child feel secure away from home. Over the years parents, I worked with have lovely ideas, such as:Making a picture necklace of you or the family, they can wear or put in their pocket.

A favourite toy, that’s small enough to be in their pocket or pencil case.

Something of yours, one parent had some precious stones and gave that to their child, so they could use it as a worry stone. Each time they rubbed it, it took the worries away.

A piece of their lovey or piece of an old tee shirt of yours

leaving them a surprise note in their lunchbox

  • If you know a big transition is coming, listen, plan and problem solve with your child. Make a picture book of positive separations in readiness for a new one. Talk about previous transitions and think about what worked and what you may do differently this time.
  • Always give your child time to settle, make sure you are available to talk or play after school.
  • Do not fill up schedules and ensure your child starts to go to bed at their normal time.
  • Expect and plan for any transition to be successful-be positive and confident. Be realistic and patient with your child.

Anxiety works both ways:

It is not only children that experience anxiety. Parents are often surprised that they may be experiencing anxiety too.

As a result of the pandemic, everyone has had so many comings and goings this year that we are not really sure how the Autumn term will unfold. It’s okay if several uncomfortable feelings arise.  

What feelings and thoughts may you experience?

  • Feel heavy, down and more tearful
  • Be fearful of another lockdown.
  • Your sleep may be disturbed
  • Want to keep your child close
  • Be more anxious, snappy and moody
  • Sadness that your child is growing up and won’t need you as much
  • Really anxious that they will struggle at /primary/senior school and will not survive the transition
  • Wonder if they will survive adolescence.
  • Worry you will not be involved in their lives.
  • Anxious their new teacher will be good for them.

Examples of Past Transitions affecting the present

It is possible to unconsciously impact the present situation based on experience of past transitions.    

For example, one of your parents may have died when you were younger, making any separation ( separation anxiety is not limited to children) distressing. For example when your child begins school, enters adolescence, or leaves home to attend college/university..  

These feelings are very normal, and what matters most is how you respond to them. As they enter your awareness, accept them rather than resist them. As a consequence, your child’s feelings will be affected by how you treat them. A negative reaction to the transition is likely if you are. It doesn’t mean, however, that you are a “bad” parent!  

Red Flag, When to be Worried

  • If the symptoms within you or your child do not dissipate within six months
  • If they interfere with everyday life, your child starts to avoid certain social situations and as a consequence your child stops going to school, going out or stops clubs.
  • They develop lots of physical symptoms such as constant headaches or stomach aches.
  • They seem withdrawn or have constant meltdowns.

Other Related Posts:

Back to School Anxiety following COVID-19

Back to School Sleep Solutions following the pandemic

Separation Anxiety and Disorder.

Talking to your Child about Anxiety

Understanding and Managing Meltdowns

In Conclusion

I hope this helps and do contact me for a consultation if you are worried or concerned,

For Autumn, look out for my workshops, I will be offering a free sleep webinar in September so do sign up to my newsletter community for a space. During this time, may you also create intentional time and space for whatever it is that you long. Wishing you joy for the rest of the holidays. With Love Catherine

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