Supporting Students Through Transition

Dear Alison,

I have a daughter in high school who will be going off to college next year. I worry about her because transition is not something she handles well. She experiences extreme anxiety and depression that results in panic attacks. As a parent I want to help guide and support her in any way that I can. I want her to be successful but I am not sure how to make transition a smoother process for her. I have heard that Sage Day deals with many students who suffer from anxiety and depression and have helped students get through this. Are there any pointers you can give me on action steps that I can take to help my daughter?

-Jan-

 

Dear Jan,

At Sage Day we help our students prepare and work through life transitions, so that the change can become less anxiety-provoking and regarded in a more positive light.

Preparing someone for transition is the first step to helping make things feel more seamless. Providing information about an upcoming transition is always helpful.  People often fear the unknown, and having time to prepare for something different can help reduce anxiety and stress.  Making an upcoming change known can help to facilitate conversations regarding feelings about the transition so that, when the change comes, the student can feel more at ease. We cannot prepare for everything, but having knowledge before a transition can help begin the process.

Providing students with the opportunity to express feelings and thoughts about a pending transition helps them to feel heard.  Being heard is something we take for granted.  Students often say that adults do not care about what they think or feel about situations. Providing them with opportunities to address their thoughts will help them feel empowered, even if they are resistant to the change. Reflecting on the feelings you hear expressed, helps to foster a feeling of support.  We are not always able to ease a student’s negative feelings, but embracing his or her voice helps ensure that he or she feels understood and heard.

Parents themselves have feelings about the transitions their children experience. If you are a parent, having your own forum can help ease your discomfort about a change.  Talking with others about experiences you envision your child enduring will help you feel more comfortable with change and, in turn, will allow you to be more open to providing a sense of security for your child.

We often focus on a current transition, forgetting that we have gone through many passages in our lives prior to the one we are facing.  Reminding people of past successes and how they were able to work through things can be a gentle reminder that we are more resilient than we think.  Building on one’s strengths is a helpful way of alleviating fears and anxiety.

Embracing change is never easy, but it is a part of life that helps shape us into who we are, while allowing us to adjust to the inevitable changes that life brings.  Preparing for an upcoming transition, finding avenues to discuss one’s feelings, being heard and being reminded of past successes can help transition occur as smoothly as possible.

*Sage Day also has a College and Career Transition Department that helps students with their next steps after High School.