Tender Transitions

In life there are big transitions, little transitions and everything in between but there’s one thing you can be sure of, there WILL be transitions. Shifting from one thing to the next is challenging for children and adults alike, especially when the transition wasn’t their idea.

I’m in the midst of a big transition right now. We are so fortunate to have my husband’s parents living here full time and being active participants in caring for our daughter. And if you’re thinking we’re the luckiest people ever, then get ready for more, because we ALSO have my mom and step dad here for six months of the year! It is SO incredibly helpful to have so many people adoring and caring for Julia, but there’s a dark side to this beautiful gift too. My parents leave and are gone for six months of the year.

My mom and Jim just left to head back to Illinois a couple of weeks ago and the transition has been really challenging for me. I miss them. Julia misses them. And I’ve had to completely rearrange my working schedule to accommodate the change. It totally sucks.

But is also great. I’m getting more time with my daughter, which is awesome. And I’m forced to really prioritize my work and only engage in the activities that really matter to me. But it’s also still really hard.

Transitions are especially difficult for me, maybe because I’ve had so many of them in my life. After my parents divorced when I was 5, they shared custody and, without going into too many details, for much of my life I split my time between my mom’s house and my dad’s. It was great to be able to have real relationships with everyone involved, but it was hard on me too.

Every two weeks I packed up my bags and moved to a different house with different people, different rules, different expectations, and even different foods. And, everybody was always so excited to see me that I don’t think I really took the time to mourn the loss of the other family before I was thrust into the next one. Luckily for my parents, I didn’t act out. Instead, I stuffed my emotions and tried to pretend that everything was OK. But sometimes it wasn’t.

So that’s what I mean when I say “big transitions.” Learning to let go of my family for two weeks or six months, mourning the loss of a home, job, or loved one, moving away from friends. But there are also all sorts of little transitions and these can be challenging too.

So if you’re wondering why your young child throws a tantrum at the front door and refuses to put on his coat and shoes, consider the possibility that transitions are just hard. Saying goodbye to his toys, home, book, or plan for the day can be really challenging for a kid.

Here’s what I’d recommend if you’re having difficulty with transitions at your house. Be tender about them. Remember that they can be hard. And most of all, TALK ABOUT TRANSITIONS BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THEY HAPPEN. I wish I had been better about this with my parents leaving town. I’m doing OK talking about it now, but I wish we had thought more and talked more about how our lives were about to change, before it happened. I’m a planner, and when transitions catch me off guard, I find them MUCH more challenging to deal with.

Perhaps your little one feels the same way. It might feel silly to talk to your infant or young child about a big or small transition, but in my experience, a short, matter-of-fact discussion about what’s about to happen can mean the difference between a screaming, kicking freaked out kid and a calm, relaxed, collected child.

When it comes to some of life’s big transitions like the loss of a pet or the death of a loved one, we don’t always get the opportunity to talk about things ahead of time. In that case, be sure to discuss things as they arise so that you and your child can integrate what’s happening as much as possible.

When you’re about to head out the door to go to the store, and you actually CAN give a child a heads up, so please do. They will appreciate it. And you might find that this one simple act of kindness and respect toward your children reaps you more benefits than you could have imagined. I would love to hear all about it. Please share your story with us!

And may your transitions be easy and tender this week, Shelly

7 comments
iocl tenders
iocl tenders

Thanks for sharing best post. I really happy to read this post it is very important for me........

yourfriendkira
yourfriendkira

Being tender and talking... so true! Even with ourselves, as grownups! And for kids, I know at times people get nervous to talk about things before, lest they "bring on worrying" before the child, but a conversation, with gentle touch, brings new brain connections that will ease the difficulties.

drucen
drucen

Bells and gongs and chimes work very well for transitions, much like specific rhymes (songs) do. GIve them a try ;)

Contemplate
Contemplate

Children are like adults in that they want to be in control of themselves, their environment and they "lose it" when they don't have the control. My son was never good at transitions of all kinds. One great technique was giving him choices and then he could decide "how" he wanted things to go. For instance, I would tell him we would be leaving the house in a few minutes. Did he want to put on his own shoes or have me do it? IF his choice was do it himself then he had to have it done by the time I was ready to go or I would help him finish up. This works so well but you have to work this out in your head as to what the choices need to be and that they are always to your benefit! As my son grew older at times he would throw in another alternative choice and sometimes I would agreed to it - often being a better one than the two I had offered!

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@yourfriendkira Yes, I think it IS important for US to deal with our own feelings about an upcoming transition as much as possible before we talk to our kids about it. Things can get a little bit messy and confusing when it's unclear if it's our discomfort or theirs that's coming up. Thanks for your comment Kira, you are such a wealth of knowledge.

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@drucen Oh, I can't believe I forgot to include that! You are so right. Chimes and bells can make a huge difference, especially when there's a warning chime at five minutes before and then a final chime when it's "time." If only I had a chime that reminded me that it's almost time to miss my parents ;)

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@Contemplate Yes, choices do help children feel they are more in control of their lives, but my favorite part of your share was when your son threw in alternative choices. I think that offering two choices is a great way to start, but I hope that our aim is to help children learn to make their own choices, not to subtly get them to choose the things that are easiest for us. I know this can be difficult, but I love it that you were open to your son's suggestions!