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Helping Your Child Through Transitions

By children’s author Lisa Thompson.

I, probably like a lot of people, do not like change. Give me a routine and knowing what’s in store each day and I’m happy. Mix everything up and put me in situations where I’m not quite sure what might happen and then I can feel overwhelmed and frankly, quite anxious. Acknowledging how we can experience a feeling of worry in our lives is one of the reasons why I wanted to write ‘Worry Boots’. A book that I hope might help a child when they are facing a worrying time due to a change of their own.

When you think about it, young children might face some big transitions within a relatively short span of time. They could be something like a parent going back to work, a new sibling arriving, moving house, the loss of a family member, and, of course, their first day of school. Worrying is, unfortunately, one of those emotions that is hard to totally eradicate but, while we are young, it can be useful to learn some tools that might help us along the way.

When my children were little and faced with transitions like starting school, one thing I did try to do was to keep up the old routines. Your child will be immensely reassured when they realise that not everything is changing and that some things will, in fact, stay exactly the same! The most important routine here is probably bedtime so it’s a good idea to keep the same order and time for when things happen around going to bed. We all know how important sleep is, and how challenges in our lives can feel insurmountable when we haven’t had enough, so helping them to get good rest means they’ll at least be facing the change with enough fuel in the tank!

It's also a good idea to talk to your child and acknowledging their feelings around a time of change. Explain that you understand why they are feeling sad, worried or anxious, and that these are normal feelings to be having. It’s also worth remembering that this might be the first time your child has felt these emotions – we know how worry feels and that it does eventually pass, but do they realise that?

Leading up to a transition, give your child advance warning on what will be happening each day so that they won’t have any undue surprises.  A gentle reminder that today you’ll be returning some books to the library and then popping to the supermarket on the way home, will allow them to feel included and a little bit in control.

Never underestimate the power of books so do read with your child! There is a wealth of books that cover emotions that can be incredibly helpful. Before you read the words, ask your child to tell you what they think might be happening in the pictures. How do they think Connie is feeling when she puts on her new boots? What do they think is going to happen when she gets to school? Reading with your child is not only a wonderful bonding experience for you both, it can also empower them when they have their own worry that is in danger of getting a little too big for their boots…