Managing Transitions

This is updated for parents who may be worried about how their child will manage in the Autumn term.

Transitions, comings, and goings ( Attachments and Separations) are all part of life. Due to the pandemic, this cycle has dominated during the last two years. In reality, families, children, and life are constantly changing. Even though we may long and yearn for it, life has no permeance.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, you or your child will likely 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 in Transitions:

  • Your child may be clingy, wanting you to be 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.
  • They are going off their food or overeating.
  • 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, suppose there is an additional sudden change, such as bereavement in the pandemic, illness, or multiple changes occur at once, such as divorce, a new school, or a new partner. In that case, 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 mixed feelings about specific transitions. They may want to leave the nursery and start school but may be sad to say goodbye to nursery or junior school safety.

How can you help your Children Transition?

  • Always start early if you know that your child may struggle with a new school transition.

Many schools, I am sure will operate excellent graded transition plans. Children who are anxious or have special needs may need extra help with the transition. Here are some general ideas to have in place ( I will write more on this soon):

  • Start early; you can never begin preparing for a transition too soon, you could do a dry run of going to the school before you start.
  • Anticipate possible trouble spots ( your child may suffer from separation anxiety) and plan what to do if problems occur. You could ask for a picture of the classroom. If your child’s teacher is changing, show a new picture of the new teacher or even arrange to meet them prior to starting.
  • 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.
  • Ensure they have a friend they can go to school with older children. 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 figure) with whom they can meet and develop a relationship before starting. It is not helpful if you are anxious to have multiple attachment figures.
  • Develop a simple plan, hug goodbye, and hand them to a teacher or learning support assistant.
  • Remember, reassurance does not effectively manage anxiety; mastering the feelings and having a plan and coping skills do.
  • Talk about what feelings they may have, and even younger children need their feelings named and acknowledged.
  • Please help them ask for help and identify who would be the best adult to talk to.
  • Help the Transition with a transitional object. It’s 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 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 had 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 them to their child so that they could use them as a worry stone. Each time they rubbed it, it took the worries away.

A piece of their lovey or part 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, and 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 regular 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 during the last two years. This can lead us to be unsure 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
  • 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 that their new teacher will be good enough for them.

Examples of Past Transitions affecting the present

It is possible to unconsciously impact the present situation based on your 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 instance, 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. Consequently, your child’s feelings will be affected by how you treat them. An adverse reaction to the Transition is likely if you are. However, it doesn’t mean 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, out or 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,

Wishing you joy for the rest of the holidays. With Love Catherine

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