At this time of significant transition for so many kids – from preschool to kindergarten, elementary to middle school, middle to high school, and high school to college - I’d like to share some observations about the process from the perspective of a middle school guidance counselor and parent.
What expertise do I have to share with you about transitions? I have worked in middle schools for 29 years, the last 19 as a school counselor. I follow an entire grade level of students as they transition out of elementary school and three years later I am transitioning them into high school. Stuffed into those three years I see more physical, emotional and cognitive change than any other three year period of time in their lives, with the exception of birth to three years of age. Year in and year out, I watch as children are transformed in amazing ways and I am in awe of the transitions they navigate in the midst of their desire not to stand out in ways that peers might find strange. I will use this space to share a bit of what I have learned along the way.
Transitions are the essence of infancy, childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, therefore helping our kids manage transitions is the essence of parenting. As our children grow and change, we must grow and change with them. Keep in mind that with each transition, our children do not need us more or less, they need us differently. The “art of parenting” is displayed in the way we adjust to the changes that occur with the transitions our children go through. Often parents seek me out during these transition periods for advice about parenting in the tumultuous middle school years.
I often share the following metaphor: Parenting through transitions is like flying a kite.
Connection is necessary to fly a kite -you have to keep hold of the string. Connection is also critical for effective parenting – you have to stay in touch with your child. But how we connect is just as important as maintaining connection.
Some parents hold tightly to the string, six inches from the kite, and run through the field thinking their kite is flying—when actually they have not given it enough freedom to truly fly. Other parents get their kite in the air, see that it is managing wonderfully, and keep letting out line. Suddenly, the spool is empty and the kite is free without any connection. It is certain to crash.
There are also parents who will only fly their kites on beautiful, calm days—they wear themselves out running around trying to keep their kite flying without any breeze. If parents dare to fly a kite on a windy day, where wind represents the transition challenges, it may be a little scary getting it off the ground, but as long as they are attentive and maintain the connection they can fly their kite through the challenges of transition. The tension we feel in the string on those windy days reminds us of the need to stay connected through the challenging times, so we will see the kite fly.
A favorite book that I recommend to parents about allowing young children to experience the challenges of transition is The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Dr. Wendy Mogel. She also wrote The Blessing of a B Minus for parents of teenagers. Both are excellent reads and provide insights into the need for our children to be supported through challenges and not protected from them.
If you are seeking more than metaphors to support you through the challenge of transitions, then consider yourself a “Guide.” GUIDES by Emerson Eggerichs from Love & Respect in the Family, is a wonderful resource for parents. Eggerichs offers a biblical blueprint to direct parental interactions with their children. I encourage you to follow this link and read the brief summary, or check out the entire book. This resource is deserving of a deeper dive, but for now, I offer it as an outline for parents who want a biblical direction for their parenting. May God bless you as you engage in the incredibly important work of guiding your children through the challenge of transitions.
About the Author: Clyde Diehl has been a member of Wayne Presbyterian Church for more than 20 years. He is currently serving as an Elder on Session and he chairs the Youth Committee. Clyde has taught Sunday school for elementary school and middle school children, mentored confirmands, provided leadership support for retreats and mission trips and served on various committees for the church. Clyde and his wife Carol have attended the New Wilmington Mission Conference for more than three decades and served as short term missionaries in Kenya—East Africa for two years with Young Life International. They are the parents of two children who have grown up in Wayne Presbyterian.