Friday, November 18, 2011

Making the Transition With Ease, Well Sort of.

Middle School Field HockeyImage by North Shore Country Day School via Flickr
Transitions are common. We all  say goodbye, hello, change jobs, change houses, change cities we live in and also change the people we choose to allow in our lives. Adults can handle change fairly well given enough logical reasons why the change is a good thing.  But kids aren't quite that advanced. A change to a child is a very big deal. Simply changing their routine at the end of the day can result in monumental behavioral issues.Kids rely on routine to give their world order and meaning. It is vital for younger kids. They need to know things will be the same from day to day. It gives them a sense of security and permanence. We play games with our little ones that show them even if they can't see us, we are still there. Peakaboo!
 When kids enter middle school or Jr.High, they have a huge transition to make. Not only are they moving schools for perhaps the first time, but they are expected to rotate classrooms, which they have never done before. There are time issues that must be followed or there is a consequence. There are many more books and you need to travel to a locker to get books and folders you need for your next class while making your way through crowded hallways. If you don't know where you are going, it can be very stressful. This alone is enough to shake any child's confidence. Now add a body that is going crazy, clothes issues ( you need to look cool now) and the fact that you may be the smallest and least developed of your peers and the stress meter just hit the red mark. Any transition will be difficult until you have practice making changes. This period involves the first time big changes happen where kids spend most of their time away from home.
 So how do we make this time less painful for kids? What can we do to help them get through to the other side of the change?  If possible, plan a visit to the school. Coordinate with the counselor to allow your child to experience a few aspects of a middle schoolers day. If they know a kiddo from the new school, enlist their help for your child's first few days. Be careful....some older kids are looking for younger less savvy kids to pick on! When your child gets their schedule, go over it with them. Help your child develop  a  system to keep them organized. This may involve a map of  classrooms, bathrooms, cafeteria, lockers and the office.  They may be riding a bus for the first time. This is traumatic at first. There are very few things you can do to ensure this is a painless experience short of riding with your child.  It is vitally important that your child knows the counselors and you are on their side. They should feel free to talk about what they find hard to do, what doesn't work for them and what does work. Generally, during these talks, we can find out why something is really difficult for them. Always work from a solutions based frame of mind. Focus on the things they like best and why. Help them develop skills to make the other things that are hard for them become easier as time goes on. Transitions are everywhere in adult life. Part of school should be to prepare for life as an adult. Let them see in your everyday life how you handle change and things that are difficult for you. Let them see it is ok to fail. It is ok to not be the best. What is important is they know that you can try again and you can be successful providing they never give up.

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