Transitions- Part I

What does that word mean to you? Well, if you ever gave birth to a baby, you might remember those last few minutes before they told you that you could push. You remember it… It was that time that you realized that death isn’t such a bad alternative to pain. It was the time that is euphemistically called transition.

If you never have experienced it, have no fear. I can really describe it to you. Think of the worst pain you ever felt in your life and multiply it by 10.

It didn’t get its name by chance. Transitions are difficult. When people experience a major transition, they often feel disoriented, fearful, worried and out of control,.

As much as we don’t like to admit it, human beings really do enjoy routine. We enjoy stability. We like knowing where things are. We like knowing what to expect. Research has shown that people will even remain loyal to their brands of foods, cleaning supplies, and toiletries.

Listen to someone who has moved far from “home” and you will hear him or her talking about where to find the bagels that taste like “Bubba’s” or where to get all-beef hotdogs. Foods and other products that remind us of home make our transitions easier.

One of the most common changes that families go through is a move from one house to another. Within the same city, it can be upsetting and difficult. The greater the distance, the more difficult and if one moves from one culture to another, it is all the more so.

Typically, during transitions nerves are frayed, children act up, and marriages are strained. The good news is that there are ways to deal with transition that are helpful.

During the years that my husband was in the Army, he and I and our children went through many transitions as we moved from place to place, changing homes, schools, friends, and lifestyles. Each change challenged us in a new way. We developed some coping mechanisms. Here are a few:

1. Developing a “we’re all in this together” attitude: As much as it may seem that the burden is not being shared equally, everyone in the family is going through a difficult time. The transition is something that everyone will weather better if the family works together.

2. Giving up the illusion of control: It was very clear that there were a large number of things over which we had no control. We were on a galloping horse. Instead of fighting to stay in control, we just had faith that it would go where it needed to and we held on for dear life.

3. Gathering information: We found out as much as we possibly could about each place we were moving. We read about the new post or city and we spoke with people who had lived there or visited there. We particularly focused in information about schools for the children. We shared the information with the children, showing them pictures when there were pictures available. In the days of the internet, all of this has become so much easier.

4. Accentuating the positive: We also explored what attractions there were in the area- lakes, beaches, historical landmarks, and recreational activities. It helped the children form images of a happy future in the new place.

5. Seeing it as an adventure: We tried to cultivate in the children an excitement about the adventure we were embarking upon. There were times when we would leave the old home for the new one and as we piled into the car, we would sing “On the road again.”

Transitions can be very difficult, but the changes they involve challenge us to grow and learn.

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