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“Follow their leads”: Advice on helping children cope with transitions

kid holding mom's handOn her first morning of kindergarten, my youngest daughter tested both my skills and her teacher's by refusing to enter the classroom. She didn't cry or whimper or say much at all; she simply secured herself about a foot outside the doorway and tightly held onto my hand. We tried gentle encouragement, the promise of snacks, the reminder that this was a familiar place (her sister had attended school for the last two years!), the assurance that Mommy would stand right outside the classroom, even a puppet show -- and she was having none of it. It wasn't until her teacher (a real pro) suggested that my little one sit in the back of the room, on one of the teacher's special swivel chairs, that we achieved success.

That morning wasn't the first time my daughter had struggled with a new situation, and I suspect it won't be her last. So I read with interest this BeWell@Stanford Q&A with pediatric psychiatrist Victor Carrion, MD, on ways to support kids going through change. It's a short piece, but his practical, straightforward advice could be helpful as we enter the back-to-school season:

Follow their leads. According to their temperaments, some children may want to know all of the aspects of the new event. Others may just want to know the essentials. Let them know that the doors to communication are open for when they choose to engage in dialogue. Let them know that it is normal to have all kinds of reactions to big changes.

Previously: Stanford Medicine magazine tells why a healthy childhood mattersStanford psychiatrist: "It's my mission to help people develop to their full potential” and Examining how friendships help children cope in stressful situations
Photo by Michael Verhoef

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