Uncommon Transitions in Children 0-17yrs.

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Uncommon Transitions.
Major transitions throughout a child’s life from 0 to 17yrs happen as the usual course of events of growing up. First day at nursery, subsequent schools according to age, girls starting periods and also moving house can be considered ‘common’ transitions. There are though, some transitions that not all children experience as a matter of course, these are known as ‘uncommon’ transitions and for those children that the unexpected does happen to, then have to deal with their feelings about it, the outcome and the overall effect that particular change makes to their personality. Many children can come through a particular change unscathed, but for most children coping with the divorce of parents or the death of a close relative for instance, can not only be life-changing, but can also have a profound effect on their personality and any choices they may make in the future. In children 0-3 yrs, the uncommon transition due to divorce or separation makes no sense to them. They have no understanding of the reasons why it has happened, but the reaction they show will usually be signs of sadness and being frightened. Sometimes (but not always) they can show ‘anger’ feelings towards siblings. It can also bring about regression in their behaviour, such as bed-wetting again or becoming clingy and not want the parent still at home to go anywhere without them. The 3-7yr primary school children will have a very similar reaction, although these slightly older children do have a tendency to show aggression – not quite so much towards siblings, but to the parent at home. They will blame the parent they live with (even though it may not have been that parents’ choice), yet feel no animosity towards the parent who left. This makes it very hard for the parent at home to comfort them or listen to the outpouring of rage, when it is misdirected. This age group cannot be reasoned with, because the only way of doing so, is to explain the reasons why the missing parent has gone, which will be too much and unnecessary information for these tender year children to understand or comprehend. Children between 7-11yrs are at the stage of their lives where they get embarrassed easily and will be reluctant to discuss their feelings about the situation. They are apt to become withdrawn, noncommunicative and find any activities to take part in, to help distract their mind from what’s happening to their family. This age group would not find it difficult at all to refuse to have anything to do with the absent parent, but wholeheartedly ‘champion’ the parent they live with. They will blame the ‘missing’ parent regardless of whether they know who made the decision to leave or the reasons behind it. It is probably hardest on the 12-17yr old adolescent. This age group will have many mixed emotions to deal with, ranging from sadness, hurt, guilt and any anger to deal with, (alongside any other worries of exams, growing up worries, or further education choices they might be worried about at the time). Their anger or resentment will be aimed towards both parents. The most worrying possible effect on this group of children is, that they can be ‘drawn’ towards friends or acquaintances that ‘introduce’ them to undesirable behaviour or activities, such as drugs, shoplifting, taking unauthorised days off school or getting into trouble with the police. To help overcome any adverse effects of this transition, every child will need to be allowed to deal with it in the only way they know, according to their age. It will help enormously if the parents do not talk about each other to the children in a derogative way, or expect the children to take sides.

Sticking to a routine during any upheaval is always a good thing and encouragement for the child to voice his/her feelings about the change, is both practical and therapeutic, as it will allow the child to work through any negative feelings. It also opens up communication lines between parents and...
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