Life is change, and the key to a fulfilled, meaningful life often lies in our ability to manage change effectively.
If we can help our kids learn great transition skills, using Doing Good Together's tips below, they’ll have the foundation to meet life with the resilience it demands.
And doesn't September provide the perfect opportunity to teach about graceful transitions? The start of the new school year puts a spotlight on the many ways our kids are growing up.
We’ve waved them onto buses and ushered them into classrooms, where they are now settling into routines, making friends, and adjusting to new responsibilities.
The kids are getting on with the school year like wild geese preparing for a big flight. They’re focused on the task at hand, enthusiastic, noisy, and industrious.
Except when they’re not. Because some days, they’re the poor, disoriented bird off course and honking loudly about a forgotten backpack or that unforgivable seam at the toe of their sock.
One moment they are at ease in their transition, ready to take flight. The next, our entire household is full of flapping wings and alarmed squawks.
As parents, we could also use a refresher course in transition management, don’t you think?
We are their role models for healthy change and transformation. Each fall, as we recognize how much they've grown, we have a chance to practice our own coping skills. Sure, we may occasionally read and re-read that parenting poem that circulates social media each fall, the one about the last time you'll hold your child's hand or pick them up - sniff, sniff. But then we must gather our best transitioning techniques and forge ahead into whatever comes next.
If we learn to face change with grace, self-compassion, outward generosity, and courage, the harsh winds of life will feel a bit gentler. And the new normal won't feel so foreign.
Besides, as they cross the threshold into the next phase, these kids of ours don’t evaporate. The toddler they once were may be relegated to home videos and thousands of unprinted photos, but it’s marvelous to witness who they are becoming. And it’s inspiring to hear of their flight plans. I currently live with a future teacher, a future veterinarian/animal-rights-advocate, and a future inventor/magician.
We’re all in that autumn space of letting go. As parents, we’re learning to step back and watch them grow up a bit. Our kids are dabbling with independence and exploring their potential.
The transformative energy of autumn propels us to do and be our best selves.
Let’s teach our children – and learn with them – to thrive through life’s natural state of change.
Tools to Raise Kids Who Embrace Change
1. Establish family meetings.
Planning ahead can make transitions feel more predictable. Family meetings are the absolute best way to keep your family connected, giving you a chance to refocus on priorities, divide chores, and soothe concerns. Especially if you use DGT’s free printable meeting agenda , with its prompts to share
- something you’re working hard on,
- a chore you will manage,
- a meal you'll help fix,
- something that brings you joy, and
- an act of kindness you'll share.
Even our kindergartner is enthusiastic about filling in his goals and hopes for the week.
2. Inspire habits of optimism.
Cultivate a positive outlook amid times of change. Compelling new research suggests that optimism can be learned and strengthened. Sure, complaints about new teachers or annoying classmates are natural, but guide your child in the art of looking for the positive. If a problem or challenge surfaces, like a poor grade on a spelling test or a disagreement on the playground, assure your child that mistakes are fixable. Tomorrow is always a chance to do better. When you find your child stuck on a negative idea or a worry, help her create a list of things that bring her joy. Aim for at least five items, including people, games, songs, books, flavors or anything else that makes her happy. Invite your whole family to create and share their lists.
By focusing on stable sources of happiness, transitions can feel less volatile.
3. Make time to unwind (and reflect) as a family.
Transitions can be stressful, even when we’re ready for them. Remind kids that the new routine will feel odd for a while, and build in extra time for family fun before bedtime. Whatever your family does to connect, do more of that. From long walks in the park to a dance party in the kitchen, make it a priority.
This down time is an excellent opportunity to ask a question or two about how the transition is going. Instead of asking “How was your day?” and settling for well-worn answers, try DGT's unique conversation starters.
4. Spend time in nature.
Transitions are often full of hustle and discord. Studies continue to show the positive, calming effect of time spent in nature. Find a nearby park or wild space and spend time together watching birds, gathering leaves, or wandering unknown paths. Take a moment to notice how you feel before and after your time outside.
5. Practice self-kindness.
Change is humbling. Whether you are starting a new grade, taking up a new hobby, or tackling a new goal, trying something for the first time introduces you to a long list of things you don’t know. Breaking new ground is exhilarating, but only if you refuse to be frustrated by setbacks or embarrassed by the learning curve. Check out The (Reformed) Idealist Mom’s article on the subject: “The One Powerful Word That Will Inspire the Kid Who Says, ‘I Can’t Do It.’”
6. Volunteer together as a matter of course.
Transitions are the perfect opportunity to start a new habit of kindness. Sign up for our volunteer listings and make giving back a priority. Helping others gets you out of your own head space, helps you see your blessings more clearly, and gives you opportunities to learn new skills and meet new people.
And if you’re on Instagram, follow along with DGT’s Back-to-School Kindness Challenge and make micro-volunteering a daily habit.
Mastering these healthy transition skills is crucial at every age.
If I spend too much time looking back, my heart aches for first steps, finger paints, and those sofa-cushion pirate ships the kids used to beg me to help them build. But before I wander too far into the wilderness of nostalgia, I remind myself, if change is life, then transitions are life giving
This process of becoming, of stretching to meet the demands of the next phase of life, is rewarding and exciting, even if it comes with its share of stress and fear.
Help your kids master this ongoing process. Let’s remind ourselves to embrace change too, and stand with them at the threshold of change well-prepared and full of compassion.
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