Transitions in life are a fundamental part of development in children and young people. From an early age a child will experience some form of transition, and how well they deal with these changes as they are growing up will be depend on their stage of development, their confidence and the support and positive relationships they may have. The affects of transitions vary from child to child, so it is important to consider them on an individual basis. That said, it is possible to gain an idea of how a child’s social development may be influenced by a range of changes and the type of transition must firstly be considered.
Emotional – for example bereavement, the divorce or separation of parents Many children will have experienced warm, consistent, predictable care and will see adults as reliable, supportive and caring. But when there is a major change within the family unit such as parents separating or divorcing, it can have such an impact on the parents that the children’s emotions may be forgotten. This can have a traumatic affect on them and it’s likely that a child’s emotional development will be affected.
They may start to misbehave at home and/or at school to seek attention or become shy and withdrawn and lose confidence. It may cause a long-term problem as some children may find it difficult to form trusting relationships with adults. Physical – for example moving to a new home or class room From something as simple as moving on to a new activity within the classroom to moving to a new home, a child or young person may find physical transition traumatic and unsettling and may affect their development.
If for example a child is progressing with age to a new school or moving to the next year group within the same school, the transition may have positive effects as they won’t be making the changes alone, they will be with their friends. They will be able to see their old friends in the new environment and the transition will seem a lot less daunting and they will feel comfortable of their new surroundings more quickly. However, if the move is to a new school where they are making the transition on their own where they won’t know anybody they could become shy and withdrawn.
They may not want to join in any of the activities and be socially awkward. Intellectual – for example moving from nursery to school, primary school to secondary school, secondary school to college or college to university Some children are unable cope with intellectual transition even if there are some familiarities such as still seeing their old friends. Progressing from primary school to secondary school or secondary school to college may be difficult for some children and young people to cope with.
After having familiar surroundings of the same classroom and teacher for a year it suddenly all changes and may cause some children to panic. They may become shy and withdrawn or start to exhibit antisocial behaviour. Whatever the change or transition is, children should be given the opportunity to talk about what is going on, what is happening and how they are feeling. In some situations it can be discussed prior to the event, such as moving class or moving up a year.
Giving children and young people the warning of what the change will entail and the opportunity for them to ask questions can reduce the harmful effects the change or transition may have on their development. In some cases, such as bereavement, talking with the child or young person prior to the event may not be possible. However, the opportunity for them to discuss what has happened and how they are feeling should still be given. It is important that all children and young people have positive relationships during periods of transition.