Transitions in our lives usually feel like this. We might feel unprepared and even angry, frustrated or emotional at times. We may find that our children experience transitions as stressful events too. Signs that your child may be struggling to manage a transition are becoming anxious, tearful, more quiet or clingy that usual, more persistent, fussy and of course the FULL BLOWN, STOMPING FEET TANTRUM!!
If this sounds familiar and causes you to have “less proud” parenting moments- Then, WELCOME TO THE CLUB! These moments can be extremely hard on us as parents as well as on our children, thus we usually yell, punish, threaten or even try to bargain with our children. Our attempts are usually unsuccessful and here is why.
Now, before I get to the why, go and pour yourself a big glass of patience and bear with me. Kathrin Martinelli said “Being asked to switch gears is a common trigger for problem behavior like whining and tantrums”. I don’t think she was ONLY referring to children… I have seen many adults throw their toys out of their cot, me included! As creatures of habit, humans really struggle to process change. Being taken out of our comfort zone, doing or dealing with something unexpected brings up anxiety and makes us feel a little out of control, unsure of ourselves and subconsciously we may feel as if our safety is being threatened. YES, our brains do switch to survival mode and trigger our fight/ flight/ freeze responses. During transitions, we struggle to self-regulate and our coping mechanisms become somewhat limited.
Our little ones experience multiple transitions throughout their school journey. One of the most recent transitions that they are experiencing is one of our special teachers leaving us. This is heartbreaking for us, yet we are also excited for her to start a new journey. As a safe, caring community we want to support the students as best we can, while we find another wonderful teacher that will be a good fit for both the students and the school. We want you to know that the door is open for any students or parents that need to talk through this transition. During this time, let’s take extra care to be mindful with the students and offer them tons of assurance, warmth, hugs and love. Please do not hesitate to come and talk with us about working on a special plan with your child, especially if you notice that your child may be really struggling with this transition.
Difficult transition times require the adults to take charge of the situation and guide the children. It may be helpful to talk with your child through their feelings regarding this change. Remember that all feelings are valid, even an emotion such as anger. Let them know that you are listening, that you understand what they are going through and that you will support them. As parents, we may want to “make it better” of “fix it” for our children, because it is difficult or causes us discomfort to see our children in pain or battling with difficult emotions. However, this can cause our children to feel as if their feelings don’t matter and they may feel invisible. One way that you can support your child is by simply saying “I can see you are sad about your teacher leaving. This must be hard for you. If you want to talk about this, let me know and I will listen” or “Let me know how I can help you when you feel sad about your teacher leaving”.
Other examples of transitions that your child may be struggling with include drop off or pick up times at school, moving away from a certain activity to do something else, bath time and of course bed time. Some things to consider that will make the transitions easier on you both include speaking to your child about what their day will look like beforehand, acknowledging their feelings and frustrations, setting a routine that stays the same during the transitions times and to have tons of patience. Remember, our little people are still learning to self-regulate and they look at you as the parent to show them and remind them to take deep breaths and to use their words (or help them find words) when they feel anxious or upset.