The Emotional Challenges of Transitioning

The school years are full of transitions – from preschool to kindergarten, middle school to high school and on through college. These transitions can be very challenging, especially for the shy child or one who is lacking confidence. Knowing how to help with the emotional challenges of transitioning can be difficult for parents. Here are some tips on how you can help your kids make those important transitions.

Preschool to Kindergarten

One of the first big transitions in your child’s life. The emotional challenges of this age involve separation anxiety and social readiness (or lack of). Here are some tips.

* The year prior to entering school, try to locate parents of other children who will be attending with your child. See if you can arrange some play dates so the children will have a friend to help them feel more secure.

* Tour the school with your child over the summer before he or she begins kindergarten. Familiarizing her with the teacher, classrooms, playground, and overall layout of the school will help a lot.

* Understand her feelings. Parents may get impatient with separation anxiety and tears, but if you’re going to support your child, it’s a good idea to understand where she’s coming from. Talk about how she feels, and help her put words to the feelings. This helps her identify the feelings which may make them less scary.

Grade School to Middle School

Just when kids get comfortable with school, they get hit with another transition. This is an emotional age for children on any given day so this transition can wreak havoc on their emotional wellbeing if not handled properly. Some things parents can do include…

* Understanding feelings is important at this age, too, but it’s not the same as going from preschool to grade school. Obviously, your child doesn’t need words to identify what he’s feeling. As a parent, you can help by recognizing the priority shift your child will have. His emotions are more focused on peers and the opposite sex than they were in grade school.

* Asking questions without judgment can help parents connect emotionally with their kids during transitional challenges. Try to find out what your child’s concerns, fears, and apprehensions are, as well as the things he is looking forward to and is excited about. Work with them to find positive ways to overcome any anxiety they may feel.

Middle School to High School

Kids start feeling independent and “grown up” about this time. They think they know everything and typically don’t want advice from ‘old people’. The social scene is also very important to them. Here are some tips on dealing with this transition.

* Stop fighting their battles for them. Calling the school for every complaint your teen has is not an effective way of handling things. Instead, teach your child problem solving skills and strategies so that he can help himself. Help him come up with a solution and give him time to implement it. If he still needs assistance after trying to solve it on his own, by all means, step in and work with your child and the school to come up with a solution.

* Go to orientation if it’s offered. If it’s not, tour the school. Find teachers and advisors who can talk to your student about his or her fears and concerns. Knowing they have someone to turn to will help alleviate some of their concerns. Many times, kids fear high school for reasons that really aren’t realistic. Knowing what your child fears about this transition will allow you to help them find positive ways to deal with it.

High School to College

Sending your child off to college is a huge step! How can parents help their increasingly-independent child with this transition? Here are some tips.

* Validate your child’s feelings about this big change. It may be tempting to blow off their problems – they don’t have “real problems” grown-ups may think – but remember your college-aged child still doesn’t have the life experience and frame of reference that you do. Being patient with their concerns can help make their transition smoother. Let them vent!

* Keep in touch with care packages and special gifts at key times (like final exams or his birthday). This helps support them more than you may know!

* Let them have some independence. While it’s great that you want to keep in touch with your child during their college years, you have to also remember that they are trying to find out who they really are. Give them some space and allow them to learn life lessons that will help them grow into responsible adults.

Life is full of transitions. The more you can assist your child in handling these transitions early in life, the better they will be able to handle change as they grow up.

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