Most parents resist putting their children through transitions, and, if they are forced to move them, try to choose a new school that extends through as many grades as possible in order to delay or avoid another transition. While we all, as parents, want to protect our children from pain, and in fact, find it painful to watch our children suffer, our own emotional investment prevents us from recognizing the value of transitions for children. What kids learn from transitions:
- To adapt and be flexible
- Skills to make new friends
- The world is made up of different kinds of people
- To recognize the phases in a cycle of transition so that next time they encounter a move, it is not so frightening
- About themselves
- To become empowered to make life choices based on affirmative decisions rather than fear
Our children are growing up in a world where change is inevitable. Increasing numbers of students go abroad during college. Employees remain in jobs for only brief periods, they may have opportunities for a career promotions contingent on moving to a different country. Any of us may even be evacuated in our lifetimes or have other reasons to make an unanticipated change. Children who are experienced in moving have skills that stand them in good stead any time they need them. Children who don’t may be paralyzed when forced to change or may make decisions out of fear rather than self-determination.
After a painfully shy child has sat watching everyone in the cafeteria for six weeks before choosing friends in her new school she will know what to expect when she moves again. Once she eventually bonds with children, the experience will be much sweeter for her efforts. And next time she is uprooted, she will anticipate six difficult weeks, knowing it will not be forever, knowing that time will pass, knowing that she will eventually make friends, and that it is her way of transitioning to a new situation. She will have had the experience of a true sense of mastery and will approach a new peer group with less trepidation. She will be aware of an inner strength she didn’t know she had before being put to the test. When this child is faced with the choice of going to a camp where she doesn’t know anyone or one where she knows someone she doesn’t like, she can make an independent choice. She decides on a college based on her own interests and needs rather than those of her friends, makes an independent decision for the study abroad program she participates in and again is her own person each time she is offered a career opportunity
The parents who have wrenched her from her friends and watched her suffer for six weeks the first time they relocated have also given her tools that she uses over and over again – that year, the next year when she changes classes, when her family is moved home from their international assignment, and in every new situation they encounter whether by force or by choice.
They could have just said no to the original move. It may have been easier – for all of them. But what would they have been teaching their daughter?