by Chick Moorman
Latrell was moving from Head Start to kindergarten. Ho Lynn was moving from one daycare center to another. Kevin was moving across town. Although their situations were different, each youngster was in need of a parent who could respond effectively to Transition Time.
"Time" is the key word in the Transition Time phrase. It takes time for a parent to structure and create conditions that can get a child ready to make a smooth transition. It takes time for a child to get used to and embrace a new situation. It takes time for a parent to tune into and respond effectively to a child's positive and negative reactions to the change. To smooth a Transition Time for your child, take time to read and consider the Five Steps to Effective Transitions that follow.
Transition Step No. 1: Be honest and open with your child, keeping him or her informed of your plans as they develop. Give your child the real reasons why the transition is necessary. A minor transition for you can be a big deal for your child. Remember, to a four-year-old, the last two years represent half of his or her life.
Transition Step No. 2: Arrange for a visitation. Tell your child, "We're going to see how the new school works." Set up your visitation as though you were checking the school out, looking it over. Treat this as an exploration, an adventure in discovery. Give your child and yourself some things to look for; for example, How is this school the same and how is it different from the last school? Let's find out what you like and don't like about it.
Transition Step No. 3: Debrief the visitation. After the visitation, ask your child what looked fun and what sounded interesting about the new school. "What surprised you?" is a question that often produces helpful dialogue. "Did you see anything exciting or scary?" is another. Your goal here is to get your child talking. Your job during the debriefing is to give your child an opportunity to describe what he or she heard, saw, and felt. Concentrate on getting information, not on giving information. As your child talks about the experience, your child will move through it and be freed up from places where he or she might have become stuck.
Transition Step No. 4: Demonstrate understanding by granting in fantasy what you cannot grant in reality. A child faced with a big transition will often remark, "I like my old school better" or "I don't want a new teacher." Here it is not helpful to attempt reassurance with comments such as, "You'll get used to it in time" or "Just give it a chance. You'll probably end up liking it better." It is more helpful to use parent talk that demonstrates your understanding of your child's experience by recognizing and honoring his or her wish. "You wish you could stay with Miss Sally forever" shows empathy and understanding, while helping your child to feel heard. "You'd like it best if you could pick your own teacher" tunes into your child's fantasy without communicating that the wish will be granted.
Transition Step No. 5: Send your child a capability message. "I know you can handle it" or "I know you are up to it" are examples of parent talk that sends the message, "I see you as capable." "I know you can handle it" does not communicate that everything will be wonderful; it just lets your child know you believe he or she can handle whatever occurs.
Implement the Five Steps to Effective Transitions to help your child deal with change. I know you can handle it.