Q: How can I help my child transition to a new school when so many things are up in the air?
A: Transitions are about adjustments and flexibility. Your child might be going to school in person for the first time — or the first time in a long time. They could be in a new building or have more accountability now that they are older. The pandemic could escalate their anxiety, since each new environment may have different rules.
Transitions to new rules and new ways of doing things can be difficult, but there are ways to help your student transition more fluidly:
u Feelings do for the mind what food does for a body. Noticing and experiencing a variety of feelings is necessary for children to grow emotionally. Parents can help by validating their kids’ feelings and let them really feel it. Trees and flowers survive storms, animals survive being hungry; our children can survive big feelings.
u Offer opportunities for your children to make adjustments, value flexibility, build stamina and encourage persistence:
— Encourage spontaneity. Not everything has to be planned.
— Point out that there is more than one way to look at things.
— Play a game where you “Imagine a world where …” we had to walk upside down, spaghetti was our only toy, cars flew instead of driving on the road, etc.
— Create “what if” scenarios and talk to your child about how they would react. “What if the ice cream shop doesn’t have the flavor you want?”
— Do a project together that requires time and energy to stay focused and engaged. Bake a cake, build a Lego kit, create a scavenger hunt.
— Let your child fail at something. Mistakes are the best way to learn.
Transitioning back to a “normal” world could be full of confusion, anxiety, stress or discomfort. The more learning experiences we can offer our children, the better they will become at adapting to their environment in a healthy and positive way.
Built to Thrive was developed by elementary school teacher Brenda Ban and clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Lilienfield. Their program promotes social and emotional intelligence through structured play-based activities. Built to Thrive works with individuals, groups and school systems. For more information, visit builttothrive.weebly.com.
The Family Center provides free programs and resources that empower families to successfully navigate life’s social, emotional and physical challenges. Learn more at familycenterweb.org