Teaching Transition: 5 Tips to Help Your Kids Through A Transition
Transition is the common theme that has been running through our household in the first half of 2015: from returning to the States on a two-month hiatus, to packing and selling our home, to moving in with my in-laws, to settling down in our new home, and to awaiting the birth of our third child. Transition has quickly become our friend. Although the physical aspect (despite being pregnant) was not as difficult as I expected, the emotional aspect was a different story.
There are easy and rough days but I simply have to push through and help our boys respond to the range of emotions that this transition brings: change, fear, uncertainty, inconsistency, anxiety, joy and excitement. Juggling all the emotions (and the hormones) that come with it is never easy.
How can I, as a mother, help my kids make transitions? What can I learn about myself in the process? Here’s what I’m learning in the midst of our transition:
1. Be honest and name the emotion.
No matter how young our children are, making them a part of this decision helped ease the uncertainty of the changes that happened. Chris and I sat them down and spoke to our boys about the changes that would occur in the upcoming months. We respected their roles as members of the family and how our decision would affect each one of us. I shared with Micah that I was feeling sad about saying goodbye to our home. He saw me shed a tear while I was telling him about the sweet memories we’ve had in our home. He would catch me smiling or laughing when I vacuumed the different rooms as I remembered silly stories in each of them. He also saw the sadness in my eyes as I locked the door for the very last time.
As we drove away one our last day, he said, “Mama. It’s ok to be sad. We will have another house. God will give us another house. He will take care of us.” Then, he immediately prayed for another house. It was a simple and honest prayer that touched my heart and redirected my sadness and pointed it to heaven. I realized that it was okay to be vulnerable in front of my children. They don’t need a super mom who handles everything with smile. They need a mom who seeks God’s grace as she deals with life’s uncertainties.
2. Answer their questions about the transition.
Chris and I realized that conversing with Micah about our move was a great way to address his needs and understand his thoughts. He asked questions about why we started sleeping at his grandparents’ house and why boxes were everywhere. He would ask how long we planned to stay and why we sold our house. Some were explained in more sentences than others but all of them were answered honestly. Sometimes, a tight hug on a “I miss my old house” night works well too.
It helped a lot to talk about what he enjoyed about the transition and to anticipate the excitement of change in the upcoming future. In preparation for our next move, we brought the boys with us during “open houses.” As we looked through the houses, Micah shared his thoughts about the different homes. He would even make comments like, “Oh! This will be Micah and Titus’ new room.” Whenever he had a question, we answered it. Although we were unsure at first if he actually grasped the idea that we were transitioning, we soon figured out that he did quite a bit. The answers absolutely brought a greater perspective to the process.
3. Give yourself the much needed downtime.
After finally getting all the boxes out of the house and settling down in our temporary home (my in-laws…haha), we spent a whole week simply resting. The TV and the couch (and a bunch of junk food) was probably my favorite companion especially during the boys’ nap time. I excused myself from the ladies’ bible study one Saturday because I just needed to sleep in. We took a break from homeschooling and even turned the TV on for an hour during the day so they (and I) could have complete down-time.
My in-laws graciously volunteered to watch the boys so my husband and I could go out on weekday date night. We all needed the space and time to rest and process our emotions that activity upon activity would have squeezed out.
4. Keep at least one activity consistent.
At our new home, I drive quite a distance to allow our boys to go to swim classes on Tuesday mornings. We decided to continue this activity — despite having to drive almost 45 more minutes — because it was something the boys looked forward to every week. It was the one thing that didn’t change throughout the transition. Interestingly, it slowly allowed Micah to have the closure that he needed.
Last week, on our way to swim class, Micah recognized the roads and asked me to exit the freeway to our old house. He told me he wanted to take a quick detour to visit our old home. He even shared with me that we always took that exit after swimming. I was reluctant but since it was out of the blue, I realized it was probably his way of saying goodbye and by doing so, process some of his unexpressed emotions.
When we arrived, he told me we couldn’t go inside because someone else was now living there but that he just wanted to see the outside. I cried as I drove around the block. He said (in a very matter-of-fact tone), “Mama, it’s okay. You and Papa sold it. God gave us another house. We just need to move into it.” Micah knew that we sold the house. He knew that we couldn’t go inside anymore. But by constantly taking him to swimming and driving down the same roads, we were able to slowly close the chapter on this transition and avoid any abrupt closures or changes. This allowed him to talk about and express his emotions in a gradual rather than an abrupt way.
5. Pray for and with your kids about the changes.
There have been times through our transition when I’ve put on a brave face on for my kids but have been inwardly wrestling with fear and doubt. As I prayed about my own concerns, I recognized that I needed to be more open with my kids about how I was handling the changes. They needed to hear me pray with and for them and ask God to help us (all of us) through this transition. I wanted to take this opportunity to encourage them to trust God for help when they were uncertain. It is humbling to share my heart with my children but it also reinforces the vulnerability and transparency that we can have as a family and exercise these with God as well. This practice not only brought peace to our home but it strengthened my faith as well.
Whether it’s moving to a new home, welcoming a new child, starting a new school, starting a new job (for mom or dad) or moving in with other members of the family, transitions can be difficult. There is just no way around it — we’re experiencing it as a family right now. I trust, however, that as I’m diligent to know and respond to my children and their individual needs, God will use me to teach and grow my children through the bittersweet blessing of change. And, without a doubt, He will teach and grow me, too. Psalm 31:24 says, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you hope in the Lord.” We look forward to what lies ahead but we are also grateful for where we are at now. This is where God is at work and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.