Hi Annie, I’m looking for some advice on how to handle transitions. I will be returning to work from my second maternity leave in March. My main concern is for my 5-year-old daughter. She has really enjoyed me being home, being able to pick her up from kindergarten every day, and just having me at home. I have told her that I will be going back to work and that she will be in the care of someone that mommy and daddy trust. She seemed ok with this, but the other day, out of the blue, she said that she wanted me to continue to pick her up from kindergarten and no one else! I know he must be thinking about it. How can I make this a smooth transition for our family?
Before I went on maternity leave the last time, the final 6 months of taking her to dayhome were a nightmare (she had been in this day home since she was one year old). I’m terrified she’ll act out again and turn my life into a living nightmare. I don’t want or need the added stress. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Kylie
Thanks for writing to me. First, it’s important to understand that children are very routine-oriented, and your little girl has really enjoyed the last several months of you being home and the routine that you have established around that, with you picking her up.
As well, she may have memories of the time before, which, by your account, included some unhappy moments for her. So she is simply feeling worried about the future and wants to cling to something and someone she knows will make her feel better—you. Unfortunately, no matter how much you might want her to understand your working hours and commitments, she just wants you, and that’s unlikely to change. How smooth the transition back to work is has a lot to do with how you approach the situation, which is also something I teach privately to parents.
How to handle transitions: Show confidence!
The reason I say that is because your children react to stress in their lives by seeing how you react to it. If you show trepidation about upcoming events, the rock that they want you to be starts to wobble, which makes them feel more worried. My guess in this situation is that you might inadvertently be approaching your upcoming work commitments with trepidation. You know it was a nightmare the last time, and you’re worried she’ll react in the same way again this time, causing you intense stress in the process. It may not even necessarily be a case of you verbally showing your worries; body language can be just as illustrative.
So, I think going forward, there are two things that might be helpful to keep in mind. One is your expectation of her happiness. You want this to be a smooth transition, and who wouldn’t? But it’s important to see it from her point of view and realize that whatever measures you take, they are not the ones she wants. She is likely to be unhappy, at least for a bit.
How to handle transitions: Keep realistic expectations.
Once you come to terms with that, now you have to take a deep breath and move forward with your expectations, so a good question to ask is, “What is a realistic expectation to have?” Well, despite her worries, she will be able to come to terms with the new arrangement over time, be polite to her caregiver, and be as helpful as she can be.
That means you have to offer a process whereby she can talk about her worries, but you also expect her to cooperate with you in the meantime.
How to handle transitions: Talk in a natural way about the issue.
The best way to get children to open up about what’s worrying them is to do things with them. People wonder why it’s easy to get teenagers to talk in cars. The reason? Well, it’s because you are focused on something else—the act of driving—and that makes communication with you much easier. So to mimic that, do things alongside her, like doing dishes, changing her sheets, or helping her organize her room, so that she feels comfortable opening up with her worries and doesn’t feel like she’s upsetting you by expressing them.
Then reassure her. Look confident when you do. Avoid showing your discomfort with having to leave her or your worries that she may have a meltdown. Explain that everybody needs a moment to come to terms with new arrangements, but this is what you have to do, and you’re sure she’ll handle it just fine. Explain that she will be going along with her sibling and that you’ve got a nice person to take care of them. Don’t emphasize how much fun it will be because you don’t know if it will be fun, and she probably won’t enjoy it to begin with. Simply act as if the decision has been made and you are confident in her ability to accept it. For more information or help, please visit the services page.
I hope that helps, and best of luck! Annie
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