If there’s one thing that’s constant, it’s change. After a year and a half of massive changes brought about by Covid and a series of lockdowns, now your child is having to cope with another big change at school. Whether it’s starting school for the first time, moving to a new classroom with a new teacher, moving up or moving to a different school, transition is difficult.
There are currently over 10 million young people in education in the UK, all of whom will be experiencing some form of change come September. For some, the change will feel insignificant, while others will really struggle.In the School Transition & Adjustment Research Study (STARS) carried out by University College London they found that the most common concerns both children and parents had regarding (secondary) school transition were:
- Adjusting to having lots of teachers
- Making new friends
Though some of these concerns are specific to those transitioning to secondary school, naturally many of the worries are linked to relationships, connection, and feeling safe. Feeling safe is very important to our sense of wellbeing. To ‘feel safe’ we need to know that there is someone there for us, someone who will fight our corner, someone we can confide in and trust with how we are feeling. New is unknown and untested, which is why it feels scary.
Children who have experienced trauma or neurodiverse children may find new places, new people and new experiences extra challenging. There are, however, some simple things you can do to support your child/ren with the change they will be experiencing in September.
Focus on connection
Any talk about parenting always reminds me of a line in Simon Armitage’s poem, ‘Mother, any distance’. In it he refers to his mother ‘at the zero-end’ of a measuring tape with him at the end ‘unreeling years’ between them. In this ode, he refers to his mother as the ’Anchor’ while he, the child, is the ‘Kite’. For me, this sums up parenthood. When things go wrong, as they do, children need to know they have someone who can help them find their way back to safety. Ultimately, it’s the connection children have with their parents, carers or a trusted adult that will offer the most support when they are experiencing change.
One of the ways you develop trust and connection is through play. Games like ‘Simon Says’, ’Drive The Car’, ‘Belly Laughs’ and ‘Blow Me Over’ are particularly good for helping children feel safe and connected. You can read more about our relationship-building resources here.
Asking closed questions like, ‘How was your day?’, encourages a closed response. Chances are answer to that question is likely going to be ‘Good’ or ‘Not so good’, neither of which give you the information you are actually looking for.
Alternatively, asking age-relevant, open-ended questions such as, ‘What was the funniest part of your day?’, or ‘What games did you play with your friends?’, or, ‘What was the most difficult part of your day?’ invites conversation and holds space for children to talk about their experiences in a safe way. Click here for “35 Ways to Ask “How was your day?”.
We can’t drink from an empty well, nor can we help to regulate others if we are not regulated ourselves. Change is often filled with big emotions which are often played out in challenging behaviours. Remember that your child’s behaviours are a reflection of how they are feeling. Your child will be looking to you as an example of how to manage their feelings. In order to take care of others, it’s important to take care of ourselves and model how we meet our own needs.
Here at Beacon Family Services, we know that helping others starts with helping yourself. We’ve created a resources for adults and teens to help. Click on the link for access to Regulation for Adults. You can download it here for free.
As well as providing in person support for families, schools and organisations to develop and build relationships through play, we also have a range of resources to support relationship building at home. Our easy-to-use ‘Cards To Help You Connect’ resources have been developed by professionals and are available to purchase on our online shop.
Lisa Merryweather-Millard is a former Assistant Headteacher, educationalist, creative strategist, editor of parenting magazine, The Little Things Magazine, and a Director of Beacon Services Resources.