Friday, March 19, 2010

Leaving People and Things Behind

[With last week's time change and the lengthening of daylight hours, Spring is the perfect time to think about transitions. This is the first in a series of posts about transitions.]

As I return to writing regular blog posts again after a long period away, I've been thinking a lot about the transitions we make throughout our daily lives, and how we can help our kids with both the small and large ones.

In my own life, transition has definitely been the major word. At the end of April, I'll be leaving Southern California, moving up to northern Washington State with my own little family, and joining a group practice in Bellingham.

There has been a lot to think about and do, including figuring out how on earth to pack up a whole house! As a family, we will have to adjust to many changes including leaving behind people we love, sunny weather, and all that is familiar.

For parents with young children, there are certain things you can do to make a big transition such as a major relocation easier. Parents naturally often worry about how their child will adjust and how they can help them do so with as little pain as possible.

Some ways to do this include:

*Maintain the Same. Keep to routines as much as possible. While certain toys may have to be given away or a best friend left behind, we can help kids maintain the familiar by keeping to the same evening routines and bedtimes, mealtimes, and other such predictable, daily activities.

*Talk About It. Describe what your child can expect and have him participate in contributing ideas, such as how he might want his new room decorated. Talk about what is good about moving, what might be sad or scary, what will be different, including some of the concrete things to which he can look forward. In the frenzy of a move, talking to your child about his feelings about it might easily be one of the most crucial things you forget to do. So don't let that happen!

*Keep It Together. Make a book together that includes photos of people and places being left behind. This can be a project where you and your child can go visit with and say goodbye to important people and take their pictures (or get handprints, etc.)which can be included in the book. When you are in your new home, this will be a valuable keepsake that you and your child and look at again and again, especially when he or she is especially missing someone.

*Start Fresh. Create new routines and family rituals. Any new city or town you are going to will have different things to offer, which can be incorporated into the family as a regular activity. For instance, if there is a farmer's market in your new town that has a kids musician performing every Saturday morning and your child loves music, going there to enjoy that could become something you could go do together each week.

*Keep Things of Their Own. Separate out some of your child's things - things that he or she wants - into a box, basket, or backpack to keep close by during the actual journey for easy access.

Gather Together. Don't forget to have a goodbye party or even several get togethers so your child has adequate time to say farewell to people he or she cares about - teachers, caregivers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends.

By helping your child in these ways, you and your family can enjoy a smoother transition to a new location and home. Even more importantly, you will be helping your child to learn that they can survive and thrive even when their environment and the people in it, are completely different.

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