three adopted siblings sitting together in a sunny field

Managing Transitions

Managing transitions can be challenging. But simple solutions can help families become resilient to all of life’s transitions.

Most adults like a change of pace, a change in routine and a vacation with unexpected surprises. For some kids, this is not the case. For many children, including those who have experienced changes, separations or disruptions in their life, their response to managing transitions is filled with anxiety or fear. They worry about what will happen in a new place or feel anxious when their familiar daily routines are not there to keep them feeling safe. Teachers see this in school on days when the school schedule has changed or when there is a substitute teacher. Parents might notice anxiety in their children if a parent must leave town for a short period or when children are preparing to start the new school year.   

Parents are the best resource to support their child in managing all of life’s inevitable transitions both big and small. Here are 8 ways to help your children make transitions successfully.  

How to Help Manage Transitions  

1. Talk things out. Actively prepare for the transition by talking about it with your children early on.  

2. Prepare your children. Parents can prepare children for changes and transitions by letting them know what is expected of them in a new situation and how some things will remain the same, such as who will be picking them up from school and where they should wait.   

3. Get children involved. Include children in planning for the transition, such as having them pick out a backpack for the new, upcoming school year.  

4. Take a preliminary visit. Starting or returning to school can be a tough change for children of all ages. Try visiting the school or day care center before children start, and spend time walking around and answering your children’s questions.  

5. Collaborate. Collaborate with teachers and caregivers to ensure smooth transitions. Help your child understand their role and expectations, and explain who they can go to with questions.  

little girl with Down syndrome laughing with parents

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6. Ask questions. If your child is showing anxiety, acknowledge their feelings and ask probing questions to learn more about their specific anxieties. For example, if a child seems anxious about going to the bathroom at school, tell them where the bathroom will be, how to ask their teacher when they need to go, that it is OK if they have an accident and where the extra change of clothes you packed in their bag will be.   

7. Allow children some control. Find ways to give children control in the situation. For example, if a child gets anxious about a parent changing the route to the grocery store or to school, let the child choose the route or hold the GPS device during the drive.  

8. Acknowledge your child’s concerns. What may seem small to you can be big for a child. Listening and talking can help children better manage transitions.  

adoptive parents receiving parent counseling with their adopted child

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All parents encounter challenges as their children grow up. And sometimes, issues may arise that leave you uncertain as to how best to respond. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. The PACE program is here to help during those times.

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