Kids are already counting the days until school’s out and they are free! Well, at least, that’s what they’re feeling. Getting outside and having fun, heading for the pool, or enjoying longer times with friends are high priorities.
But these times of transition can also carry an undercurrent of anxious uncertainty too. Simply stated, it’s a whole mix of conflicting emotions all at once. It’s important, as adults, that we recognize that anxious feelings can be running below the surface, and the more we are sensitive and aware of those hidden emotions, the better we can help guide our children through these transitions.
With every “ending” like a school year, it’s automatically a new beginning. As much as the finish line is celebrated, what has been very familiar to them is also ending and some uncharted territory is ahead. When what we’re looking at is unknown or unfamiliar, it can raise anxiety, no matter how enticing the “new” might seem. Our kids need to know (1) It’s normal, and (2) It’s OK to feel that way.
For example, moving from Elementary school to Middle School means going from top dog to the lowliest position in just a few months. The same with Middle School to High School, and throughout life and our careers. That abrupt comfort zone disappearance from a more in-control, in-charge status to the lowest rung of the next ladder, usually carries with it some major insecurities.
If our kids seem a bit more uneasy, even act out some, we can help them most when we recognize some of those feelings and talk about them with our kids. Bringing the subject directly out into the open is a good way for us to bridge the gap first and start the conversation.
You might say,
“It’s great to feel proud of all you’ve accomplished. Soon you’ll be starting a new school. You can make new friends and be in new classes. How are you feeling about that?”
Starting with the “positives” is usually a good way to lay the groundwork. Then you might say,
“At your new school, things won’t be quite as familiar as they have been. Do you have some concerns about that?” “How does that feel to you?” “Maybe a little uneasy?”
You don’t have to be a trained therapist to have that conversation. Sure, they might respond with the common “I don’t know.” Don’t let it throw you off. Gently keep asking. Identifying with and confirming their feelings, and listening without interrupting can help ease their change.
Talking about what will be new and different also serves as great time to bond more with your kids and be a positive influence in their lives. Yes, it might seem a little difficult or awkward at first, but your kids will appreciate the conversation, because they are likely feeling those emotions anyway, whether they articulate them or not.
It’s definitely worth the effort-for them and for you. Talking about their transitions and the important feelings involved can be the first step in transforming nervous anxiety into an anticipated adventure.