Children's mental health: Let's talk about transition

There are many ways of helping children deal with periods of transition.

There are many ways of helping children deal with periods of transition. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Many children are preparing for the annual end of school year transition; whether it’s to a new class, in a new classroom, with new teachers - or to a brand-new school.

Throughout their little lives there may be many other changes that children may face like welcoming a new baby or moving to a new house.

For some children, even the day-to-day adjustments like going between activities, places and objects of attention or being asked to stop one thing and start another can feel incredibly overwhelming.

When children struggle, it can manifest in a number of ways depending on the child and the setting. It can show up in the form of resistance, avoidance, distraction, negotiation or a full-blown emotional meltdown.

It’s important to remember that all behaviour is communication. Here are some tips on how you can support your child to make transitioning feel a little less daunting.

What’s behind the BIG feeling? Try to get to know the triggers.

Become thoughts and feelings detectives together and try to find out what’s really going on underneath for your child. Work together to spot the clues and see if you can come up with some solutions, to solve the problem as the dream team!

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Routines help children to cope better during change by keeping their environment, familiar, reliable and predictable – which in turn helps them to feel safe and secure. Try to have as much structure to your day as possible and involve your children, so they feel reassured knowing what’s happening and what’s coming next.

Where possible, encourage children to take a little more responsibility in day-to-day routines and task (age and ability appropriately of course), by creating some small tangible and achievable goals - gradually reducing any barriers they may have by setting them up and supporting them to succeed.

Support your children to explore whatever it is that is new or unfamiliar - it’s all bringing the unknown to life, through their eyes and into their world. Talk about the layout of their new classroom, their new peer group, teachers and playtimes. Talk about which things may be the same or similar and what may be different.

Many children benefit from being able to visualise these changes. You could ask your child’s school if they could send any pictures to help make things feel a little more familiar or encourage your children to draw a picture of their own, building excitement for all of the wonderful things that they have to look forward to.

Role-play is another fantastic way to help prepare children for any changes. Let children take it in turns to be the student with you as the teacher and vice versa. Talk through previous experiences that they can relate to like when they started nursery if they are now starting school, or when they changed classes last year.

Child and family mindful emotion coach Jodie Smart.

Child and family mindful emotion coach Jodie Smart. - Credit: Jodie Smart

Books can also be a great resource. Always plan ahead, give children warning before something is coming to an end or any upcoming transition and plan extra time so children always have good experiences no matter what.

Finally remember the 4 C’s Your children will need you to be the calm to their storm.

They will be picking up on your feelings, your facial expressions, body language and the tone of your voice.

They will be also be feeling out of control, like everything is happening to them and there’s nothing that they can do about it.

Therefore, the more choice and control that you can offer them, the better. It’s best to use limited choice, so this or that and I always say that with freedom comes responsibility so the choice and control must be used appropriately by the child and be beneficial.

Even when our children are struggling, they still need rules, boundaries and natural and logical consequences. Although we may show resistance towards them, they help us to feel safe, loved and cared for.

It’s OK to feel every feeling, but how we feel does not excuse how we behave. If your child is struggling with any of their BIG feelings, please get in touch and book a FREE initial consultation -