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How transitions affect children
Transitions affect children and adults in different ways. BeWell spoke with Stanford Professor Victor Carrion, MD (Child Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic) about how we can support our children during times of change.
What is the biggest misconception about children and transitions?
I believe the biggest misconception about children is “their innate ability to be resilient.” Nothing in the literature supports this claim. In fact, the opposite is true; because of the young development of their brains and physiology and limited repertoire in coping tools, children are more vulnerable to the effects of stress. They need our protection and support.
Do children experience transitions differently than adults?
Yes, and there are differences among children. While preschoolers may become more clingy and regress in their behaviors, school-age children may somatize [express psychological symptoms in a physical way] and want to miss school. Adolescents may withdraw and become avoidant.
How can I prepare my child for a big change?
Follow their leads. According to their temperaments, some children may want to know all of the aspects of the new event. Others may just want to know the essentials. Let them know that the doors to communication are open for when they choose to engage in dialogue. Let them know that it is normal to have all kinds of reactions to big changes.
What is the best way to support a child during a transition?
Be available. Listen. Play with them. Facilitate new relationships.
And, what should I do if a child I know is experiencing difficulty?
Depends on the level of difficulty. If the transition or the response to the transition is building distress, or interfering with performance at school or work, or with interpersonal relationships, seek professional consultation from either a pediatrician, psychologist or child psychiatrist. A comprehensive assessment may be needed.
Change is universally lauded as?difficult. Can transitions be positive, too?
Very much so; a better school, a better neighborhood, are but a few examples. As children get older they will acquire new responsibilities that will be matched with greater privileges.