School Winds Down, Change Ramps Up: Tips to Help Kids Adjust

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Synopsis

The school year draws to a close and the summer months begin. However, transitions and changes in routines and social situations can be difficult for lots of children. Here are 7 tips for parents, and another 7 tips for kids, to help smooth the process.

Children may have qualms as the school year concludes, and people say good-bye to one another and head off for the summer holidays. This annual juncture is an end but it is also a beginning; the start of adventures, relaxation, outdoor play, learning experiences, new friendships, and more. And yet, many kids feel apprehensive. Their familiar routines are upended; they wonder who they’ll meet and what they’ll do all day; they anticipate that they’ll miss their friends; and they may be afraid that things won’t be as comfortable when they return to school in the fall or that they’ll forget everything they learned.

Parents might think kids will simply get over the concerns, adjust, and get on with their lives. And, that’s generally the case. However, many children who aren’t sure what to expect in the weeks ahead can be scared, worried, or uncertain how to cope with the various changes that will inevitably occur. There are ways parents can help this transition time go more smoothly so their children, and the entire family, can make the most of the school break right from the start. Consider these two key questions, along with the 7 suggestions that follow each.

A) HOW CAN PARENTS SUPORT CHILDREN IN TIMES OF CHANGE? 

“The way you manage change is as important as the change that you manage.”         ~ Anon

Changes come in all sizes, and even the so-called positive ones, like the beginning of summer break, can rock the status quo. A child may perceive of the change as being a relatively small disturbance, a medium shift, or a large seismic upheaval. Managing the situation involves thinking about how to adapt—including how to confront or adjust the extent, pace and complexities of the change process—so as to become more at ease. Parents can offer support in these seven areas:

1. Planning—Help kids understand what the change will be like, including what they can anticipate in relation to social, academic, or emotional implications over time. You can check with the teachers and work together to convey information, and strengthen messages of reassurance.
 2. Preparation—Ensure that children have on hand, or can acquire, the resources or materials they might need in order to make the transition less daunting. (And the recreational and personal growth aspects more enticing!)
 3. Commitment—Demonstrate resilience and persistence, and chat about why it’s important to try and see things through. Perseverance is a learned skill, and it can be especially hard for kids to keep going while navigating new, uncharted, or rocky pathways.
 4. Monitoring—Stay attuned to children’s feelings and their capacity to cope with change as it unfolds. Watch for red flags around their mental and physical well-being. For example, keep your eyes open for issues pertaining to sleep patterns, emotional states, or eating habits.
 5. Ongoing adaptation—Be readily available to reinforce, guide, and assist as change-related events fall into place. Change is an incremental process—step-by-step-by step. Children may falter along the way so be attentive, patient, and responsive.
6. Collaborative interactions—Encourage children to create meaningful relationships and networks of support in case difficulties occur. Friends, family members, coaches, and others can offer incentive, support, and guidance.
 7. Self-confidence—Bolster children’s faith in their abilities, reinforcing what they can do and have already done, so they become more self-assured and feel capable even when transitions seem challenging.

B) WHAT CAN KIDS DO TO ADJUST TO CHANGE?

 “Change in all things is sweet.”  ~ Aristotle

Parents are well-positioned to help children see change and transition times as gateways to new experiences and exciting learning opportunities. It’s good to know what lies ahead, but since no one can read the future it will always embody a sense of mystery. And that’s intriguing! Empower children to welcome change, and to make the most of it. Here are seven self-motivating and doable strategies for kids to think about (and for parents to encourage):

1. Enjoyment—Continue to do what you like to do as routines change. Pursue your passions, and stick with the activities that give you pleasure even though you might have to be persistent and juggle things about in order to make this happen.
2. Change does not mean chaos—Go one step at a time. You don’t have to deal with everything at once. Prioritize. Resolve to take it slowly, based on what matters a lot to you, or is most urgent. What step will make it easiest for you to see your way forward through the change process? Start there.
3. Read—There are countless wonderful stories, parables, and biographies about individuals who confronted changes in their lives, overcame obstacles, and triumphed. These tales are sure to inspire. Find out more about the people you admire, and how their experiences shaped them.
4. Creativity—Use your imagination.  How can you make a transition time more manageable? For example, maybe you could “customize” the change experience and make it fun or personally satisfying by injecting art, music, drama, or physical activity into the process. A little creativity can change changes—for the better. (There’s an old saying, “True change takes place in the imagination.”)
5. Make a plan—People tend to feel better when they’re planful. This means creating an action framework that gives you direction and a workable timeline—and the comforting sense that you know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and what you can do to make it as carefree as possible.
6. Stay calm—This is really important. Pause and collect your thoughts. When things are changing it helps to reflect and take stock of what’s what, including people’s feelings, the possible implications of change, and the potential consequences of any actions you might take. Try deep breathing, exercise, relaxation, downtime, and visualizing happy outcomes. You are in control; you are the change agent. You can navigate transition times by working yourself up, or by calming yourself down. Go for the latter.
7. Communicate – Listen. Chat. Ask questions. Share ideas. Be open to having discussions about change. Use a steady tone of voice. Be respectful, and think about how to work collaboratively alongside others. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you feel you need it.

Stephen Hawking said, “Intelligence is the ability to adjust to change.” Parents and children can work together to be smart about transition times, and to make them enjoyable and fruitful. The end of the school year and the onset of the summer months may herald changes for children, but those changes can be exciting and lead to wonderful experiential gains. Help kids see the power of possibility both in overcoming the challenges and embracing the opportunities.

Additional Reading:

For more on productivity see “Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids” by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi Press, 2014). For more on helping kids address avoidance behaviour see “Not Now, Maybe Later” by Joanne Foster (Great Potential Press, 2014). Additional articles and resources are at http://www.beyondintelligence.net

For an article on helping children transition at the start of the school year, with six helpful tips that parents can adapt for use all year round: Smooth Transitions During Times of Change

Sean Covey writes about seven habits that stimulate personal growth and can help kids advance effectively and constructively at home, school, and within the community. You can find out more about his work (for kids, teens, and families) at: http://www.seancovey.com

Canadian educational researcher Michael Fullan’s work is primarily about educational reform and leadership, but he addresses many important and underlying principles of change. To learn more about his books and his work go to: http://www.michaelfullan.ca

Tags: education, education tools, psychology, routines

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