Nurturing life’s transitions for our children
This month my son went off to university in Auckland. I am excited for him and proud that he is ready for this next adventure. Familiar feelings and thoughts of anxiety have crept in to my thinking that have been a part of the many transitions and separations throughout his childhood. I was a Mum in the late nineties and returned to work when my son was six months old. I was in Auckland and had THAT commute to factor into the daily routine. TV programs (remember ER?) were pushing the notion of breastfeeding in the workplace ,pressure, guilt, ambiguous messages about the effect of separation; all contributed to the anxious feelings and concern – will he be ok?
A number of city changes and childcare arrangements, school at five years old, changing school, intermediate and high school; all have been momentous for my children and evoked in me feelings of excitement for my sons, pride at how they embrace the changes and deep concern for their very core of wellbeing.
I am sure there are many ways this plays out for parents and caregivers. For me this month it has been overkill on preparation of gear. Toiletries to last a whole semester, laundry powder “you might want to take your own toilet paper”; linen, “you know you go through over seven towels in a week”; stationery, clothes; so much gear! Probably most of it will stay unpacked in the car but it’s helped me visualise how he will cope. And bless him, he’s been kind and patient and cheerful with me throughout the shopping, an activity he doesn’t usually show enthusiasm.
Of course, these are the attributes he has consistently shown that will see my son right. A sense of curiosity and fun, of excitement for his own future, of kindness for people. And a knowledge that he is loved greatly.
For younger children to not only survive their transitions but thrive, some ideas include:
- Recognising it is a change in the relationship so some preparation is advised.
- If you are working with a childcare provider help them get to know your child as well as possible. Take time to understand how they will care for your child if your child becomes distressed. Help the caregivers understand what comforts your child. Ask questions.
- A healthy and securely attached child requires a secure consistent relationship with their primary caregiver. One way to build confidence for older children is to show yours and their commitments on a joint calendar so your child can see clearly what’s happening. Always say goodbye and remind them when you will be returning.
- Creating some artwork together that your child sees you taking to work helps remind the child that although you are somewhere else, they are important and you are thinking about them.
- Be kind to yourself. Work/study and being a parent can feel like to demanding jobs and it’s hard to find balance. Allowing some quiet time for yourself helps to recharge your energy to face challenges
Patricia Schimanski Clark has joined our team of counsellors at Napier Family Centre. With specialist skills and experience working with children who have experienced trauma Patricia also works closely with parents/caregivers. If your child’s behaviour is concerning you and your child is increasingly becoming withdrawn or ‘acting out’ seek some help. Finally, it is a good idea to share your feelings with others as often this can not only bring out some great ideas on managing the new routines, but also quiet the worrying thoughts. The last word must go to Celia Lashlie, a great researcher and wise woman in the matter of raising teenage boys, who passed away just over a year ago, “He’ll be OK”.
From Kath Curran, Napier Family Centre CEO