Life happens. Change is inevitable. Sometimes this change may be by choice, other times it’s not. Either way, there is often a toll, recognized or maybe unidentified, that happens within our children. When life transitions to a new stage, children maybe do not have the vocabulary to express their emotions. The effect is shown through their actions. This outward expression of unexpressed emotion may look like negative actions, neediness, or high energy. Most often this action based communication, which we can feel is negative and maybe even a drag, is in essence the best way your child knows how to ask for help.
I recently got a note from a mom asking about healthy ways to help her son unwind at night. Being a former heart-centered sleep coach, I knew to dig a little deeper because the answer is often more specific than a general “here’s the one thing that will always work” kind of answer. There’s rarely the one magical fix.
When we discussed what was happening in her life and her son's life, there was more going on than needing to unwind at night. A big more; a life transition. This transition came in the form a move out of state; a new apartment, a new school, and new people. For parents with kids starting a new school year, the transitions are similar in their foundation.
When we are surrounded by new routines, new energies of others, and new environments, life is subject to a little upheaval.
I know all too well. Two days after I got this note, we made our own move out of state. And in with my parents while our new home is being built.
We are living in an environment different from where we came. With new daily routines and energies and rules. Most of it is actually good. Yet my children are reaching out for help dealing with this transition in their own way; sometimes in ways that feel like they're needing a lot more from me.
Even good transitions need support. The best support often looks like old support.
What I mean by that is, when children are going through big changes and transitions, they are seeking comfort in what they know. For my daughter, she’s asking me to hold her hand while she falls asleep; an old, lost security blanket from over a year ago. Her favorite way to be comforted, she's seeking it more throughout the day. Even this transition, one where she gets to see her Nonna and Pappy most days, there is fun and there are struggles at the same time. The temperature is different, the sounds, the lighting ~ It’s an environment that is unfamiliar, though familiar all at once. She’s been here, but this time it’s different.
Like going to the same school but with a new teacher, different classmates, and different rules.
The other kicker? I’m off kilter, too. While I can process this transition with my big girl words and ease in shifting thoughts, the truth is, it’s hard to see my child struggle at bedtime. She’s my child who typically jumps into her bed at night. I’m left feeling powerless when my child is stressed at bedtime, showing her struggle to transition.
My own feeling of powerlessness is the cue to let me know she is seeking to feel powerful.
Her world has changed and she has a foundational need to know she has some control. When she reverts to her old ways of being, like seeking help falling asleep, I answer her with the attention and recognition she deserves. I offer her choices, real choices she can make, in an effort to give her back some power and control. Things like, are you wanting this night light on? Do you want a water bottle in your crib? These elements that aren’t part of our routine but things she can choose for herself. She’s creating the rules in her new environment so she feels safe, and she feels heard.
The mom who wrote looking for support with her son? It turns out he was expressing his powerlessness through hitting others at school; an outward expression she never had to deal with before. Seeing that his needs had shifted, she shifted how drop-off at school looked, offering more time and attention in response to his expression for security. She also added energy tools, like EFT tapping, to calm his body in the morning and before bedtime. In addition, she took time out to stop and ask herself, what was she needing? By doing so she tuned into solutions to feel more comfortable in her new space. The outcome? Her son stopped hitting and started sleeping once again within a few days.
It’s easy to forget transitions are hard because for many of us, we’ve made so many in our lifetimes. Children are still figuring out how the world works and change is one place where it’s our job to remind our children they are safe and we are willing to meet their needs. Even if it means giving them things we thought we’d never have to do again.
xxo ~ stephanie
Stephanie Hope Dodd, creator of the Goddess In Everyday Clothing™ initiative helps women remember their divine power + purpose so that together we walk this spiritual journey of mothering, healing, & living fully connected to our inner divine goddess. Featured on The Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Natural Awakenings, Modern Alternative Health, Authentic Parenting & an Amazon #1 International Best-Selling Author, Stephanie blogs, speaks, and works with women globally.