Understand the Potential Effect of Transitions on Children and Young People’s Development.

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Understand the potential effect of transitions on children and young people’s development.

Through out our lives we are confronted by changes. People, places and even our own bodies change. We are faced by ongoing periods of transition as things alter from how they were to how they are now. Transitions can positively or negatively impact on children and young people’s development depending on how they are supported and the change is managed.

There are several types of transition children and young people face, including, emotional, physical, physiological, and intellectual that if not correctly handled can have a negative impact on development.


The loss of a loved one, a pet (close deaths) or even the death of a famous person that is well documented in the media (detached deaths), can raise a maelstrom of emotions in a child. They may be fearful about what is going to happen to them and scared that they, or someone they are close to, might die next. They may feel confused about what has happened and why it is happened. They could feel guilty that they are still alive or blame themselves in some way for the loss. They may feel sadness and grief or even anger about the loss. These emotions can manifest themselves in behavioural changes as they can have a profound effect on the Childs sense of security. An outgoing child may become quiet and withdrawn, a child may stop eating, and they may be unable to sleep, or become aggressive. They may need help and support to understand what has happened and learn to accept the change.

Entering or leaving care
Being placed into care or moving from the care environment to live with foster or adopted parents can be a challenging transition for many children and young people. They are being moved from a familiar environment into the unknown. They may feel frighten about what is going to happen to them, angry if they have been made to leave their parental home, or being separated from siblings. They may feel confused about why they are moving into care, or just unhappy and resentful about the change. This change can also means a physical transition because the child or young person may also have to deal with going to a new school, and establishing new network of friends. If well managed this can be positive transition. If the child is moved from an unstable, neglected home to a stable, warm and loving one, it can have a good emotional effect and improve their sense of security and self worth.

Divorce/ Family Breakdown

Changes to family circumstances can have a profound effect on children. Separation or Divorce can leave the child with a sense of bereavement, like they have lost one of their parents. They may feel angry or confused and worried about what will happen to them in the future. They may also feel that they are in some way to blame for the family breakdown so carry a burden of guilt. These negative emotions may lead to a lack of concentration at school, or exhibits themselves as withdrawn or aggressive behaviours.

In cases where a family breakdown is caused because on of the adults have been abusive and/or violent to the other this can be a positive transition as the child or young person will be taken out of a difficult home environment.


Moving house or area
This physical transition can have an emotional impact on a child as they may be moving away from family and established friendships to an unknown place. They may be worried that they won’t ‘fit in’ and make new friends. They may grieve for their old life and home, or be angry and resentful that they have been forced to make this change. They could also feel frustrated as the change in circumstance was beyond their control.

Moving Country
A child may have no previous educational experience as they have moved from a country where formal education begins at a later age. They may suffer from ‘culture shock’ if they have gone from a small...
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