Thursday, March 15, 2018

Making Transitions

Most kids I've known, most days, are eager to come to school, but some kids drag their feet every day and all of them have mornings when they would rather not. I get it and I don't take it personally. After all, I love my job, but I'm not always a happy camper about getting dressed and getting out the door either.

It's typically not about school, but rather about the transition. We've all known kids who struggle with transitions and it isn't really something we necessarily outgrow. I mean, that's what Monday mornings are all about, right? Or returning from vacations. On the final night of this most recent mid-winter holiday break, I found myself wishing for just one more day and I have the best job in the world.

Children have their adults to push back against and they do. They don't want to transition from the playground to go back home, they don't want to leave home to go to school, and nearly every day I hear kids whining at their parents that they don't want to leave school, even as their mother's are telling them that their next stop is the playground. As adults, there is typically no one but ourselves to push back against, so we play games like hitting the snooze alarm, but ultimately it's our sense of responsibility rather than another person's scolding that gets us out of bed.

We all want our kids to be the sort who jump out of bed, dress themselves, make short work of breakfast and are waiting at the door in plenty of time, but it's not in human nature to be eager to stop having fun in order to have fun. Indeed, one could argue that a strong resistance to transitions is part and parcel with feeling contented with how things are right now, which is a state of enlightenment. For instance, I love when I tell the kids that I'm thinking of banging the drum (our signal for clean up time) and they call out for "five more minutes!" It means they are fully engaged. By the same token, I often feel like a bit of a failure when a kid prompts me, "Can you bang the drum now?"

Life is a series of transitions. Rarely are we in a position to let it just flow from one thing to the next, so all of us, whatever our natural temperament regarding transitions, learns our own way to handle them. And young children, more often than not, start by targeting the obvious "villain," which is the adult who is telling her she must move on, which then turns into a power struggle that leaves no one feeling happy. If our goal is to give our kids the opportunity to develop their own sense of responsibility about life's necessary transitions, then it's important that we work to take the focus away from "mean mommy" ("Because I said so!") and onto the schedule itself and our own responsibilities and feelings about that schedule:

"It's time to go."

"I wish we didn't have to go either."

"Our friends are counting on us."

"I don't want to be late."

Many parents find it useful to, in non-transitional moments, talk to their children in advance about the transitions they can expect in the coming hours, days or even weeks, depending on their age, and then regularly remind them of the full schedule, including the unscheduled parts, throughout the day. All of us tend to do better when we know what to expect because it gives us the opportunity to prepare ourselves and develop our own philosophical approach to moving on from one thing to the next. Perhaps most importantly it allows children to begin to see that it's not mommy or daddy, but rather the schedule that makes the transition necessary.

And until we have the revolution, that's the way it's going to be. In the meantime, we learn our schedules, acknowledge our emotions, and hit the snooze alarm until our sense of responsibility gets us out of bed.

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