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Change and transitions top tips

Many children need routine in order to help them understand the world around them. This means that change and transition often cause them a great deal of anxiety. This could be a minor change, such as taking a different route to the supermarket or a larger change such as going on holiday or moving school.

Inevitably, change and transition are part of everyday life and something children will need support with managing.

Identifying the change or transition

In order to support your child, it is important to find out what the change involves and when it is going to happen. For larger changes and transitions, such as moving school, this may mean approaching those involved to get more information.

Warn your child about the change or transition

Some children benefit from knowing about the change or transition before it occurs. This can help them to process and prepare for the experience. Some children may like to be told weeks or months in advance, whereas others may like to be told on the day.

Explain the change or transition

Find an appropriate time and place to explain the change or transition to your child. Ideally, this should be when you are both relaxed and anxiety levels are low. Try to use clear and simple language when you are explaining and give your child plenty of time to process what you have said.

Use visual supports

Visual supports can be a good way of helping children to understand and process change. Which visual supports you use may depend on your child’s preferences and what has worked well before.

Visual supports you could use include:

  • Photographs
  • Cartoon pictures
  • Drawings
  • Timetables, calendars and wall charts
  • Social stories

For example, to prepare your child for moving school you could use:

  • Photographs of the new school and key members of staff
  • Calendar marked with the start of term
  • Social stories to help them understand different aspects of the school day (such as lunchtime or getting the bus home)

Maintain some familiarity

When a change is introduced, your child is likely to be feeling anxious.

Maintaining some familiarity in other parts of your child’s life is really important in helping with those feelings of anxiety. Where possible, you should try and stick to your child’s normal routine. Something familiar which can be brought into the new situation or experience (such as favourite toy or sensory items) may also help your child.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PSY28

Resource Type: Article

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