Many students and parents face transitions. The beginning of a new school year brings challenges as children and adolescents cope with the many changes that eventuate. Progress at school may mean a change of teacher, a change in school routines, changes in friendships and for some a change in schools.
Changes such as these create stress and challenge for children, as they often fear the uncertainty of how things will turn out. For many children the routine of school will have to be relearned and hence there is challenge in the changes that they face.
Change can be a wonderful part of life. Change promotes learning since a person is made to think differently in their new situation.
Starting Kindergarten is the first experience that 5 year olds have of the13 years of formal schooling that follow. For the first time some families face a transition into a new stage of their family life as school and the family interact for the first time. Still other children are making the transition to high school for the first time. Even new class groupings and new teachers by all children at this time of the year create potential challenges and tension from the changes.
Such changes can have both favourable and unfavourable outcomes, but in either case there is potential for learning and growth occur.
Parents can help to ease the impact of these stresses by sensible parenting. As parents of children going through a multitude of changes, it is important that we demonstrate and model successful negotiation of changes as we experience them in our own lives. It is important that we show our children how to learn positive lessons from new experiences, and to demonstrate optimistic thinking in the face of new situations.
For example: A child going to a new year at school faces saying goodbye to a favourite teacher, and going to a new, perhaps feared teacher. This can be seen as an opportunity or as a major upheaval. The response of parents to their reaction may be the catalyst to how they negotiate this change.
There is a natural response for parents to rescue their children and shelter them from the impact of such a change. But this can be a mistake. To rescue the child before the child has the opportunity to negotiate a way through the change and its challenges has the effect of reinforcing that change of any kind is frightening and too be avoided.
Instead, parents that allow their children to face change with an optimistic mindset, enable children to develop skills for life. Such challenges once negotiated successfully by a child serve to reinforce an optimistic view of future changes that may later be faced.
Lyn Worsley, Psychologist, Alpha Counselling Services