Bridging the Gap: Help with Transitions

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We travel a lot as a family. Whenever we fly, which may be eight times this year, visiting family in various parts of the globe, we go through security. Every airport security has the scanner or metal detector as part of the process, and, even though we know it’s coming, and have done it many times before, it’s still a big deal for one of my girls.

(Like this one listed on Amazon because what can’t you find on Amazon these days?!?)

We’ve been through this dozens of times. She knows what to expect, that one of us will be on one side, one on the other, and she “just” has to walk through. But still – without fail – she will need help. Sometimes she will be stressed enough that they allow us to carry her. Sometimes I can put my hand out and coax her through, but, different than her siblings, I can pretty much guarantee that she will need a little extra “something”. That’s how she’s wired, and we make it through.

It’s a transition, and like all transitions, little or big, different kids will require different levels of support.

Here’s what I know about transitions:

The faster a kid’s brain is going, the harder the transition will be.

  • Video games
  • Deep, passionate research
  • Engrossing books

No matter the topic, the more all-encompassing, suspense-filled, captivating it is, the harder it is to get out. We’ve all experienced this when in the middle of a really good story and then an interruption comes along. We sometimes forget, especially if we’re not actively involved, how drawn-in our kids are to what they are doing.

Transitions are usually easier together.

Some experts recommend sitting next to your child as they finish their video game time or whatever similar activity, join in, and then together exit. Or send a sympathetic sibling or friend who can gently coax them into something new. Instead of yelling from across the room, come alongside your child, perhaps even a gentle rub or pat of affection, and then together “let’s” move on.

This comes in really handy when it’s clean up time at our house. I often give myself a job first, or even let them pick one for me and then take the preferred one themselves, because it provides a sense of connection and togetherness.

Different kids need different-sized steps.

If we think about a transition as a bridge,

And the steps to move through that transition as the stepping stones, some kids are going to look at this, say “no problem”, and sprint across. Others will size it up and cautiously take one step after another until they’re at the other side. Others, however, will look at these steps and the rushing water underneath and decide it’s too much. They need more steps, closer together, or a hand to hold to walk across, or, as I did with my daughter on these steps, someone to lift them to the first step and help them get started and find their footing.

People who may need more support may include those dealing with anxiety, executive function delays, sensory and other overexcitabilities, hyperfocus, and ASD.

Probably most important to recognize, however, is this:

Every successful transition makes the bridge stronger.

This is basic brain science. Every time someone successfully moves from A to B, without being overwhelmed or stressed out, that “transition bridge” gets stronger. Your child may, next time, or a few months down the road, decide he no longer needs your help. He’s practiced the transition so often that it’s become second nature.

The converse to that is also true. Every time we yell, lose it, or melt down, our kids associate stress with that expectation rather than ability.

Transitions are hard for all of us.

As adults, we struggle with change, too. Whether it’s a new job, a big move, or having to stop watching the big game before it’s all over, we all, yes, ALL, have trouble from time to time. Our kids live in a world where they have much less…

  1. Practice in dealing with transitions
  2. Perspective of what’s on the other side
  3. Control over their time, schedule, and expectations
  4. Self-control. It’s an executive function skill that is learned over time.

The more we can empathize, meet them where they are, and see their perspective, the more they will trust us to help them through whatever change is happening.

A couple years ago, I wrote about transitions as they relate to the preschool crowd. Read more here.

This post has been part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop for August 2019

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Adelaide Dupont says:

    I loved your points about “The faster a kid’s brain is going”; “Transitions are usually easier together” [this helps more often than not for me]; “Different kids need different-sized steps” [and this is probably even more true for teens and adults].

    And the hope we find in “Every successful transition makes the bridge stronger”.

    Like

    1. Heather says:

      Thanks so much! I personally have to remember that connection and a positive experience are more effective than pushing & threatening, so these are truths I repeat to myself on a (daily?) basis!

      Liked by 1 person

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