Making Smooth TransitionsJazmine Tufford-Singh
Registered Psychotherapist, Art therapist M.A., Canadian Certified Counsellor Psychotherapist and Art Therapist in Private Practice in Kitchener-Waterloo
I am a registered psychotherapist and art therapist working in private practice in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. I have the pleasure of working with child, youth, and adult clients in individual therapy, meeting and connecting with them exactly where they are on their path. I also offer a variety of workshops in the community, centring around topics such as creativity, self-compassion, parenting, anxiety, and more.
Today I have the pleasure of being a guest on the Coach House’s Wellness Wednesday video and blog to share about the transition back to school and shed some light on how parents can best support their children in this time of change, and others.
The transition back to school in the fall is a crazy one, for everyone involved. Kids are transitioning from being home for the summer, perhaps on a camp or daycare schedule (with different rules and routines at each I might add), with some family vacations in there too. Parents are transitioning from a regular work schedule, but often dealing with their own stresses from balancing the family routine, as well as the emotional blues that come as the summer winds down and we always seem to wish we embraced it more than we did.
As much as school can be loved by kids, it can also be a source of stress and anxiety – with academic pressures, social struggles surrounding making new friends or just navigating existing friendships, and again, an entirely new full week routine to adjust to, complete with homework and extracurricular activities throughout. Goodness, aren’t you exhausted just thinking about it?
As the parents supporting these guys heading back to class, I feel that one of the most important things to remember is to simply remind yourself of how this transition truly affects your child, whose brain and overall self is still developing to learn how to cope with it all. As adults, we are better able to articulate our feelings, when we need some time to ourselves, when we are hungry, tired, or need a hug from a loved one. We often unfairly expect the small people in our lives to be able to do the same.
Instead, it is our job as adults supporting our children to do our best to make space for the emotions that they could be feeling, predict what may overwhelm them, make them nervous, worried, or upset. Kids need to know that it is okay to feel what they are feeling, that everyone feels that way sometimes, and that they don’t have to be alone in dealing with those big emotions. This allows them to feel seen, heard, and understood, and this is so very important given how scary it can be for a small person feeling big emotions for the first time.
So how do you give your child these messages about emotions? It is much easier than you might think.
Unfortunately, “Emotions 101” isn’t a class that is taught in school, so its up to us as the adults to teach kids how to regulate their feelings, and we can do this through teaching them by doing it along with them.
Incorporate Emotions into the Conversation
Children don’t have a full vocabulary to name the emotions that they feel, so we must teach them these words, what they mean, how they might be felt in the body, and what to do when they feel them. Children’s books centred around emotions are a wonderful resource to ignite these conversations, so are emotion flashcards, and emotion charts.
Make the Time to Be With Your Child
As adults, we often think it is best to keep busy, this is essentially the core of our culture, as Brené Brown says: “It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” All too often this extends to the schedules of kids. Of course, there are incredible skills to be developed through sports and other extracurricular activities, but there are also moments of connection and co-regulation to be experienced when there is time for rest, play, and simply being together.
Try this: the first 20 minutes after school, when everyone has arrived at home for the evening, make a point of grabbing a snack with your child, find a seat at the kitchen table, and draw together. Have your child draw something that happened within their day, and you doodle yourself while following along. No electronics, no distractions, no place to be, but right there. You will be incredibly surprised at how much more is shared by your child when their hands are busy working away, and just how much you can learn about their authentic experience. For your child, it might not be drawing, but this activity may be a walk, baking cookies, throwing a ball back and forth, anything. Make this a daily routine, just 15 or 20 minutes of uninterrupted time together, where your heads and hearts can connect, refresh, and feel present for one another. It is so very important to have this time within the day, and ideally before or after school, as school is their workplace, and it is heading to work or coming home when we need the most time to regulate and calm.
This idea is beautifully articulated by Lawrence Cohen, as he states: “Children don’t say ‘I had a hard day, can we talk?’ They say ‘Will you play with me?’
What Does This Look Like in Therapy?
Kids experiencing big emotions that may be overwhelming and exploding at school or home is a common struggle that brings people to my practice. Connecting about the topics I have begun to share above are ones that I explore with parents of child clients that I work with in individual therapy, or with parents who seek out support specifically for their experience with parenting.
When working with children, I give them a safe space to be creative, feel a sense of mastery as they lead what we do or create in the therapy space, explore and express their emotions through the languages of art and play. The therapeutic relationship is arguably the most important element of the therapy itself, as they develop a sense of trust and safety, they become able to express their vulnerabilities, to be truly seen, heard, and understood, without fear of being judged. As humans, this is truly what we want and need.
Are you curious to learn more about art therapy or psychotherapy for your child or yourself? I would be more than happy to connect with you, and answer any questions you may have. As a place to begin, learn more about child, youth, adult therapy, and the overall therapy process by visiting my website: www.jtsarttherapy.com, or connect with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.