Transitions with Kids

Here we are at fall again, my favorite time of year with the crisp air and colorful leaves.  It can also be a challenging time for parents as the school routine takes back over.  Transitions are challenging for all of us.  Our nervous systems naturally respond to change with a jolt of energy and activation.  For some people this can take form in anxiety, for some they become hyper and aroused, for some it is seen outwardly as a total shut down or an external melt down.

Bruce Perry, a famous Psychiatrist and Neuropsychologist talks about how to help the nervous system out and regulate.  He talks about the four R’s, repetition, rhythm, rhyme, and routine.  Incorporating these through transition for both you and your child can be very helpful.  If there is some kind of ritual you can think of, like singing a little song or a small saying with rhyme and rhythm each time you transition can help greatly.  This is also why music in the car can help when we are going place to place.

I also like to think of sensory based activities as these can also help the nervous system regulate.  Many kids I see come from families who have experienced divorce.  I suggest to parents that they have ritual when going from one house to another.  Coloring together for a little bit after your child is packed and ready to go can be a great ritual and an opportunity for them to talk about their feelings around the transition.  Having a special snack upon return can be a great ritual too which involves smell and taste.  This leads to a final suggestion with transition, empathy.

The nervous system also relaxes when feelings are acknowledged and validated.  Saying statements like, “I see you are really excited to be leaving” or “I notice you seem frustrated and don’t want to leave” can help your child not only learn language for the feelings they are having but also shows them that you see them in their difficulty with the transition.  They key to helping ourselves and our children out with transition is to add some kind of predictability to it with intention to help support the nervous system through the change.  When done consistently you will notice your child engaging the change in a calmer more secure manner.

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