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Evaluating your (Middle School) child’s experience of transition

Written by Bridget Curran, Head of Student Support Services, and her wonderful team of counsellors

One minute you are trying to manage your child’s transition from school to virtual learning; before you know it, they are already two weeks back into school with yet another transition to embrace. It may be that just before sending your child back into classrooms after these few months of lockdown, you’ve been initiating some talk with them about transitions, caringly trying to prepare them for the changes that were going to take place on school campus. Looking back at it now, you might be wondering which of your words of precaution, love and encouragement actually ended up sinking into your child’s mind- how has their experience of transition been so far, what are they making of it? Have you noticed a change in their behaviour, their mood? If you haven’t already began discussing with them their new way of being at school, we suggest that now is a good moment to start.

First of all, why is it important to ask your child about their experience during this period of transition? It is one thing when they prepare themselves for the transition with the help of your encouragements and wisdom, and another- them actually living this experience in practice when you’re not around. Despite the many “what if” scenarios that you may have discussed with them in order to prepare them better for the unexpected, the future maintains its elements of unpredictability, creating situations that may challenge your child’s thoughts and emotions about themselves and the world. Checking with them on how they are doing during this time of change therefore:

  • …Presents a great opportunity for you to find out the possible challenges that this transition is creating for your child. What have they been finding challenging and why? How have they been responding to this experience? Understanding their interpretation of the situation in greater detail can allow you to elaborate a more specific response to their needs and help them deal with the challenge more effectively.
  • …Makes your child feel more secure in an instable or new environment. Expressing genuine interest in their life by asking specific questions about what their day has been like, while staying open-minded and empathetic, can make them feel loved, supported and cared for, already helping your child to digest the situation better even if they had a tough day.
  • …Helps your child interpret the situation in a different way, which in turn can transform their feelings and response to the situation. It may be that they had a difficult day and end up staying silent about it until you ask; once you ask and they give you enough detail about it, you can validate your child’s experience while encouraging other ways of interpreting the situation. This can make them realize the possibility of choice in their perception of challenging events, allowing them to become more flexible and feel more in control of the situation.
It is important for them to learn how to face certain situations autonomously in order to build confidence in themselves...

If you can, make questions concerning your child’s day part of your daily routine during a certain moment that you’ll be spending together and use these discussions as a foundation for building greater trust with your child as well as an opportunity to think of solutions together. It is possible that during this period of transition, your child has been struggling with various situations, in which case, after discussing with them the reasons for this struggle you can explore their resources for handling it. Of course you can be there for them when they need you, but it’s also important for them to learn how to face certain situations autonomously in order to build confidence in themselves.

You can suggest them to try some techniques such as listed below, making sure to discuss with your child the manner in which they are going to do the chosen technique and its effect on them once they’ve tried it:

  • Breathing slowly with their belly when they are stressed.
  • Imagining a pleasant, happy memory that can help them feel more relaxed and secure when they are feeling anxious.
  • Comforting themselves in their thoughts as if they were trying to help a very good friend that was struggling.
  • Asking themselves how their teacher, friend or parents would interpret the situation.
  • Smelling, listening to, tasting, looking at or touching something that creates positive thoughts or emotions and shifts their attention from the uncomfortable event.
  • Accepting the challenge of the situation and creating an empowering philosophy around it: “it is making me a stronger person”, “It’s teaching me to deal with tough situations”, “it’s making me learn more about myself and my friends”, etc.
  • Remembering how they’ve dealt with other difficult situations and change in the past.

It is also possible that in discussing your child’s daily experiences in handling the transition, you will find out that they have been dealing with their new environment reasonably well. In this case, you can discuss with them their interpretations of their experience and find out the techniques they’ve been using to support themselves.

Whether your child has been struggling or not, make sure you reinforce your child’s efforts to use these self-regulating strategies to help them better manage their stress.

 


 

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