A few months ago we decided to move to a different town. In addition to requiring negotiating, logistical planning, and lots of sweat work, the move involved preparing our daughter for what was to come.
With the excitement of moving also came the fear of the unknown, for both my daughter and me. Tons of questions went through our heads and we knew that we were going to miss our town – our friends, the restaurants, the stores – everything that had been familiar and felt safe to us for the past nine years.
My main concern was my daughter’s readiness for the move and how the move, although exciting, might negatively affect her. I knew it was important to
prepare her for a change that she hadn’t experienced before and that the biggest part of the change for her was going to be enrolling in a new school. So I called the new school and scheduled a visit to give her a chance to see it.
During our visit, my daughter met the principal and a few fourth grade teachers and toured the school, including the library, the gym, and her classroom. The visit relieved some of the angst that was building when she thought of losing her friends and giving up safety patrol and student council at her old school and entering the unknown: no friends, no teachers who would know her, new rules, new policies, new everything.
It also gave her confidence that she would be okay because the school did not look completely different from her old one, the principal was nice, and the teachers were kind.
She no longer had to worry about it all summer long and instead was able to focus on playing and making new friends in the neighborhood.
Looking back, visiting the school was immensely helpful. It saved me from listening to the endless speculation: “What do you think the school looks like?” “What is the principal like?” “Who are the fourth grade teachers?” “Do you think they’ll like me?” and the many other questions that go through the head of a nine-year-old who is concerned with change.
When I work with parents I encourage them to create as much predictability for their children as they can. I encourage them to use a calendar to jot down appointments, events, and activities that involve the children so the kids know what to expect.
We decide so much for our children. We take them places they don’t want to go, we make them give up a TV show or playing with friends or having fun to take them to the grocery store or to run an errand or to go to the dentist (which creates a whole lot of upset when kids don’t know about it ahead of time). As adults, we have an idea of what our day looks like; our children don’t, because we plan for them all the time. Transitions become hard, tantrums erupt, relationships break, and what could have been a pleasant family event turns into a disaster.
Having awareness of what we are throwing children into and preparing them for it will help our kids be less anxious, more confident, and able to adjust to new situations with ease and grace.
Lavinia Ball-Marian is a therapist with The Labyrinth Institute specializing in children and families. Read more about her on www.lab-inst.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-432-7475.