Right now is a time of doors opening and closing for our children, teenagers and young adults. It seems that everywhere there is someone having a graduation ceremony, whether it is the pre-schoolers looking to head off to primary school, Year 6 students having orientation days at their new high schools, or our Year 12 students who are currently reflecting on 12 years of schooling and wondering what life post-school may look like. Moving from kindergarten to primary school, primary school to high school and from high school to beyond are all big transitions. It can be a time full of fun, excitement and new experiences, but can also be challenging or worrying for some children. For parents, it is a time of adjustment, reflection and anticipation about the ‘next chapter.’
With 2016 coming to a rapid close, it’s time to consider what transition point is your child or adolescent coming to? Are they ready? Are you as a parent ready for the next stage?
Whether you are a parent of a budding prep student, pre-teen heading off into high school or a nervous parent of a recent high school graduate, there are key messages we can provide our children with to support a successful life transition. Every family will give countless messages spoken and unspoken to their son or daughter during their childhood and adolescent years. These messages can be direct conversations we have had with our children or adolescents. The values and morals that we have installed in them or simply the modelling we have provided through the way we as adults and parents manage change and transition. These messages can be considered “launching messages” and are vital to a successful launch into school, high school and the world beyond.
Adapted from family therapy systems theory the below messages can be helpful to support and empower our children into the next phase of their lives.
“You can go”
This message signifies a transition for the child or adolescent as well as the family. It declares that the child or adolescent has a “pass” to physically leave the family nest, while enjoying the security of returning at the end of the day or when needed. For younger children this message signals a rite of passage of care-giving from parents to teachers and it is important that children perceive the school environment as their ‘home away from home.’
For an adolescent it also implies that the adolescent has a “pass” to emotionally leave and encouraged to express their individuality. This will be expressed in their activities, work and friendships. Parents need to be aware of the subtle and some not-so-subtle “don’t go” messages that glue young people to the family. So the adolescent needs to hear a clear, genuine, caring statement “you can go” and you can return.
“We believe in you”
This message conveys both to children and adolescent that their parents and family have faith in their ability to be successful at school and life after school. For younger children this message provides a source of comfort when uncertainty or anxiety arises in a new environment.
For adolescents and young adults it symbolises that their parents and family are going to be constant audience members in life, sometimes silent by-standers and sometimes the loudest cheer-leaders as the adolescent navigates life’s challenges. This message goes with the adolescent and provides the stable voice from which to take heart when doubts arise.
“We will miss you”
This message communicates to the younger child that despite spending extended time outside the family home that they are being ‘held in mind’ and during the school day are often on our minds. It creates an opportunity to develop rituals around separation and reunion at the end of each day.
This message for an adolescent or young adult is that they are still attached to the family despite physical or emotional distance. It’s saying that the adolescent will always be part of the family regardless of geography and that this connection to the family is boundless.
“We will cope without you”
This message is essentially saying, “We will be ok; you don’t need to worry about us.” It announces, “We are adults – we can take care of ourselves.” For younger children leaving the care of their parents for perhaps the first time it is important that they understand that even though we may be sad to wave goodbye on the first day of school that as parents we have the emotional strength to adjust.
For adolescents and young adults who may be considering moving out of the family home it is a reassurance that the family unit will adjust and adapt to their transition and new family norms will be created.
“Let’s stay in touch”
For younger children this message is about ensuring parents and the family are active participants not only in the child’s transition to school or high school but are interested and curious in sharing in their child’s experiences. It highlights the importance of open communication and listening to our children as they re-tell stories and events that happen during their day. It is through this that we will gain a sense of how well they are adjusting and any issues or concerns that they may need help with.
For adolescents and young adults the message is more direct. As our children grow and leave the family nest this message is simple “keep in touch.” It highlights that the family are interested and care about sharing in their young adult’s lives.
Life is one big transition. From the womb, to birth, from crawling to walking, from kindergarten to primary school, from high school into study or work, our children are constantly transitioning and growing. As parents we can create a strong launch pad to which they can confidently and securely spring into the next stage of life’s journey.
Source: Ward, D. (2009). Five Messages Every Adolescent Needs to Hear. Psychotherapy in Australia, Vol 15, No 3, p 48-54.
Our clinic address is: Shop 5, 2770 Logan Road, Underwood, 4119.
Our clinic is located in Underwood Village, on the corner of Logan Road & Underwood Road.
There is free parking and close public transport to ensure easy access by our clients.
Our clinic provides a child and adolescent friendly environment that supports differing modalities of intervention. The clinic provides for wheelchair access.