Going to a new place for the first time, moving to another one, starting school or moving into a new class are seen by many people as a normal part of the lives of children. Yet transitions are milestone events for children and have a definite effect on their development. They are times of exciting change certainly and times of new opportunities and growth for every child. They can also be times of uncertainty where some settings are not the same, expectations and rules are different.
Transition has been described as a life journey rather than a destination. The first physical transition in a child’s life is when they start nursery and the environment where they spend certain time each day changes, new people (nursery teachers and little peers) become familiar into their lives. Transitions that are the same as this happen again when the child starts primary school and later when transferring into secondary education. At these turning points all the people around them, including teachers and pupils are experiencing the same change, which helps the child to accept the new environment. A social transition for each young person is reaching puberty and experiencing changes on their body and in their thoughts and emotions. They experience strong waving emotions, the first love, hatred towards their parents who try to control them etc. therefore this period is hard and confusing for both the teenagers and their parents. Intellectual transition means the movement between key stages or finishing school.
When starting the next key stage pupils find themselves in difficult situations and trying to achieve their new goals. Transitions only experienced by some children transitions that do not occur in everybody’s life but only experienced by some children or young people during their development can affect different points of their lives. In these situations it is advisable for the nursery staff to keep close attention to the children affected, because they might need help or support to manage with these changes. Moving house and as a consequence transferring to another school is a physical change the child might experience a sense of loss. Their home environment suddenly changes, they have to get used to a new place and in addition, get used to a new school. They feel that they are losing their old friends and have to make new ones.
Transitions in social life can include the death or illness of a family member or relative. A young child might have difficulties in understanding the concept of death while they see their family members being emotionally hurt by what happened. In this case nobody in the family has control over the situation; they can only accept it and try to manage with the loss. The parent’s divorce is also a transition that causes loss in the child’s life because their family as they have known so far does not exist anymore. Certain transitions can cause fear in a child’s life and if a nursery staff member does not recognise early signs of these problems they can have a long lasting negative effect on the child’s development. It can be physical, emotional or sexual abuse by a family member or somebody else, as well as bullying in school or outside the nursery that can cause a break in a child’s or young person’s development.
Children react to changes in different ways, depending on their own personality and the nature of the change they are experiencing. Their behavior can go to the extremes: they can either become quiet or start to become angry. May show their problems by unusual conversations and remarks, strange drawings and actions that are not typical of them.
- Transitions in Early Childhood – National Center for Biotechnology Information
- The Impact of Transitions on Children’s Wellbeing and Development – National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development: How Can We Help Children Who Experience Trauma? – Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child