Three Ways To Help Your Kids Manage Transition and Separation
My only complaint about the summer holidays is how much they’ve cost me. I even braced the red tape and took to the sky for what turned out to be a very worthwhile week in Skiathos.
What I’m not so jovial about the return to school. While I’m looking forward to getting some rhythm back into my days, and even knowing what day it is, this new reality can be the cause of much anxiety and upset for kids, and consequently their parents.
Thankfully the first day of the term was a good day. My son says they had lots of fun and, while I don’t doubt it will be short lived, a good beginning sets the tone for what follows.
But mine is also the kind of child who, when unhappy, won’t let anyone know. He’ll just miserably watch the clock until it strikes 3.30 in silence.
None of us want to think of our child as being unhappy all day but, especially for those who struggle with ‘new beginnings’, transitions, separation etc., any kind of significant change can be very tough for them… even if to our sensible adult minds there is ‘nothing to worry about’.
There’s so much to say on this subject but here are my fave three ways of supporting your kids with ‘back to school’ (or starting school), especially if this is a big leap for them;
1) You don’t need to convince your child that they’re going to have the most fun, ever.
While there may be lots of reasons that they might, validate their concerns without following up with a “yes, but *sugar coat*”.
Instead, help them to identify how to solve the problem if it arises; “So let’s work out what you can do if you get stuck, lost” etc.
And don’t just tell them; they’ll process it much better by thinking it through themselves, and feel more confident if they arrived at the solution themselves, rather than you just giving it to them.
2) ‘Transitional objects’ work for kids of all ages (and us!), especially those who struggle with separations.
It is typically a small item that positively symbolises your relationship, and that the child keeps with them during your time apart.
What the object is is irrelevant; a pebble, a lego brick, a shell, a pen lid. Little notes found in pockets or packed lunches can be a welcome surprise.
Smell is our post primitive sense and can instantly settle a frayed nervous system, so a spray of your favourite perfume, on a tissue or their sleeve, means they can quietly (and discreetly!) connect with you that way.
Don’t worry that these techniques will keep your child ‘needy’. You’re just giving them the tools to manage on their own. That’s how they develop confidence and trust in themselves.
3) Don’t bombard them with questions (even if you have hundreds!). While we may need the reassurance that our kids have had a good day, all the changes they’re dealing with can be overwhelming.
Give them the space to process it all, and simply invite them to share it with you;
Instead of “How was your day?” try “I’d love to hear about your day”…
Instead of “What did you do today?” say “You look like you’ve had a hard/fun/tiring day”…
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