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Tips For End Of The School Year Transitioning

Tips for end of the school year transitioning

by Rebecca Austin-Castillo
Counselor & School Psychologist

The end of the school year is a time of transition when all children will move on to a new classroom and teacher, and some will move on to a new school. Here are some ways you can help to prepare them:

• Start preparing for transitions early. While it is sometimes tempting to wait until that last possible minute, thinking it will minimize the stress, it can ultimately create a greater negative emotional response. Children need time to understand that a change is taking place, and that some things will not be in their lives for a while, or ever again. Older children also need early warning, when possible. This gives them the opportunity to process through their feelings, which can vary from day to day, and to have the time to appropriately close this chapter in their lives.

• Talk about feelings. Often kids do not have the words to really express what they feel. Consider using an age-appropriate feelings chart to help them match a face to what they feel. Even older kids are sometimes unable to name how they feel, and may need assistance. Encourage your children to express themselves using language like: I feel ___ because ___. Allowing your children to simply express their feelings, and to feel safe in doing so, will give you the ability to know more about their fears and worries.

• Say goodbye. Whether you will return for a visit in a few months, or never plan to return to the place you are leaving, children need to say goodbye. Having a ceremony or formal event is a great way to do this. We often think about saying goodbye to people, but your children can also benefit from saying goodbye to places or things. Younger children may need to do this to understand the permanence of leaving. For older children it can help them to feel that they have had the opportunity to let go and find necessary closure. Leaving behind people and a place that we care about can create grief for people of all ages. This is okay and perfectly healthy, but it is important to be proactive and resolve as much as possible. Consider allowing children to choose the people and places that are most special to them.

• Plan to create familiarity. While the number of things that you can bring with you are limited, consider which items are most important to your children. These can create a familiar feeling in the new home. The items they choose may seem silly, but they may have deeper meaning. This, too, can be a great topic of conversation. What is the importance of each item they have selected? Decorative items from their bedroom are nice items to unpack and place into the new bedroom right away, creating a sense of familiarity.

• Research with your kids. We are all curious about a new place. As adults we will get books or search online to learn as much as we can about our next destination. Consider allowing your children to participate in this process with you, and share exciting information you find. Even younger children will be interested to see pictures of points of interest in your next destination. With older kids you can go online and walk through the area you will live, work, and attend school. Search for places that interest them, and add those to your early “must do” list. This can build excitement, which can lead to development of positive feelings about a new adventure. Start building upon your conversations about feelings by asking your children what they are excited about, and what they are looking forward to.

Recommended books:
Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollok and Ruth E. Van Reken
Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child by Julia Simens


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