About Tonya Lippert, Ph.D, LCSW

Tonya Lippert, PhD, LCSW, studied developmental psychology and clinical social work, is the co-author of a book on ADHA, was a visiting professor at Reed College, worked at the Oregon Social Learning Center, and currently runs mental health therapy groups at Kaiser Permanente. She lives in Portland, OR.

How to Help Guide Kids Through Big Changes

All children experience changes and transitions - moving, changing schools, a friend leaving town. These changes can bring uncertainty and sadness about what a child may "lose", such as friends, caregivers, teachers, comforting rituals. This is common even when there's excitement about what may be next. Transitions and changes can become times where we recognize how much we care about someone or something. When we feel a sense of loss, it's because we care. Changes and transitions are not disconnected starts and stops from everyday life; they are bridges between the past and the future. You can help children carry a sense of wholeness and continuity through the impermanent landscapes of their lives. Changes are bridges between the past and the future. Below are a few guidelines and examples of what you can say to a child experiencing a change or transition. You'll want to adjust what you say and how you say it according to a child's developmental level and what you know about your child. Also, children often need repetition and may want to have the discussion more than once. Your child may repeat it to you, as they try to strengthen their understanding of what is happening. Acknowledge the transition. Acknowledge the change or transition and the feelings that often come with it. For example, you might say, "You are going to have a different school (home, class, etc.) now. People can feel a lot of different ways when something like this happens. Some kids feel sad, some scared, and some mad. Some might feel excited about some of the things that will be different." Express and validate feelings. Ask about your child's feelings. Sometimes, children will only tell you something if you ask. You could ask, "How do you feel about going to a different school?" or "How do you feel about your friend moving away?" Children may express their feelings directly or indirectly. They may cry. They may want to avoid the discussion. Either way, allow and accept the feelings and let children know their feelings make sense. Listen without expressing judgment about their feelings and without telling them what they should feel. If a child expresses feelings directly, saying they are sad and/or mad, you might say, "Yeah, sometimes I also feel that way when things change but I want them to stay the same." If the child nods or otherwise shows that you've  hit the mark, you might go further and recognize how hard it can be to accept what's out of our control. For example, you might add something along the lines of, "Sometimes I wish I had magic powers to make things be the way I want them." If a child expresses feelings indirectly, try to see what these feelings are or may be. For example, if a child puts their head down, you might try, "You seem sad." If you get no response and the child seems open to talking, you can check your perception with, "Are you sad?" Validate

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How to Help Guide Kids Through Big Changes 2019-11-05T12:52:03-05:00