Transition is part of life. People move. Children come into the family. Special people and pets die. For those living overseas this rhythm of transition brings an odd normalcy, which one could easily sway or tap their foot.
In and out.
Come and go.
Up and down.
Turn around and start again.
But, after a few years of this dance our minds stand guard. Emotions must stand against the wall and not step foot on the dance floor. Sometimes transition requires helping children through change.
If we find ourselves either in this awkward dance or stuck against the wall, what about our kids? They learn the dance early. How well they learn it or how to avoid it really depends on a few things. As parents we need to be mindful of them and how they are handling all the transitions, this includes children with special needs. My second child has Cri-du-Chat Syndrome and is mentally delayed. Though she can communicate, she is non-verbal. She has had her fair share of transitions as she spent most of her life outside of her passport country.
Her brother just graduated from high school last week. Soon he will be gone. He will be miles away across the ocean. She does not fully understand this, but she knows something is going on. The night of graduation she watched the ceremony from a friend’s house near the school. They told me she tried to kiss the TV when he was on and cried for him. She came over to the school after the ceremony and would not let him out of her sight – actually, she would not let go of him. We pried his arm away from her death grip so he could get photos with friends. She did not want to leave him or him to leave her. It was sweet but opened my eyes to see that we need to help her more with this transition.
Ideas for Transition: Helping Children Through Change
Below are some ideas to help any child who may experience transition, but especially those who have special needs.
- Prepare yourself first – I feel the best way I can help my daughter is if I am in a healthy place first. Just like the oxygen masks in the airplane – first put your own mask on before assisting your child – first process and grieve this transition so that you can help and assist your child. Or at least take time to process on your own, so that while she is in the middle of it you can be there to support and comfort. For me this was writing in my journal and doing a 10 day countdown with old photos of him growing up
2. Talk about it – Begin talking about what to expect in the transition. For us, it is our son will be gone. We explain that we won’t see him as often and that we’ll have to talk to him online. We look at photos of the new campus he will be attending.
3. Make something – Let them make a card for the person that is leaving. Let them draw, paint, or create a memory.
4. Take photos – Be the annoying parent who takes photos of everything. They will all thank you later. Print them out and put them up in the child’s room. Be sure to mail a copy to the one who is missed because they will want one, too.
5. Be there – This all depends if you did #1 well. You need to be there to hold them when they are crying and sad. If you have a child that is verbal, stop whatever you are doing and LISTEN. Remember you do not have to “fix” anything. Just be there. Hug them. Cry with them.
I’m sure like me you want your child to walk through these transitions with ease. It isn’t easy and most likely it won’t be without pain or heartache, but it can be done in a healthy way.