Transitions. Today my daughter returns to her home nearly 6,000 miles away. Sarah visited for two weeks and it's time for her to go back to the life and place she chose to call home six years ago.
Let me tell you a little more about the transitions that are part of Sarah’s visit. Through the gift of air travel, she steps into a plane and 12 hours later magically, physically wakes up in a new world. Emotionally she is straddling two worlds: the world of her present and the world of her past. She is mentally and physically navigating two different cultures, climates, languages and surroundings. And to make it just a little more fun, there is a seven-hour time difference.
And then there’s us, her family. We love each other fiercely, and when we're together again, we also have our difficult moments. We sometimes become who we used to be when we lived together, including those patterns of not-so-productive behaviors and buttons that are pushed. (With time, practice and age, we are getting better at all of it.)
I remind myself of these facts. I remind myself that the anticipation of all this change may very well be worse than the change itself, especially for her. I remember that I am challenged by these very things, too, and search for that extra bit of patience with her, my family and myself.
Transition: movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another (from the Latin 'transit' - a going across).
Transitions. They are tough, and everyone goes through them multiple times a day. It’s so easy to get lost in transitions, to lose yourself and the other person as you work to maintain your routines and your equilibrium. It takes time to move from one place or mental state to another. A space is needed for this to happen, often both physical and mental. It means taking yourself out of the picture in order to create this necessary space for the other, or to create some kind of boundary which makes space for you.
What are some of the transitions in your family’s life?
* The ride home. A group of 8th grade girls agreed that when you’re bringing them home from school is the absolute worst time to ask them about their day. They’ve had it after 7-8 hours in school, and want nothing less than to talk about it as soon as they leave the building. Find another opportunity to satisfy your curiosity and your need to be part of their life. Dinner, another time in the car, and just before bed are easier times to be close.
* Teens and tweens. They are changing, growing, questioning, doubting every day. Give them space to do that without a barrage of questions. Temporarily put your own needs aside, while creating a safe space to share when they do seek your love and guidance. Space gives them the freedom to choose to come back to you, rather than fighting to break away.
* College students. Many leave to live on campus, 20 miles or 2,000 miles away. And then they come home for a long weekend, or several months over the summer. These are significant transitions for families. You have all developed new routines and new ways of being during the lengthy separations. It takes time to adjust to being a family again, especially a family where some are moving into young adulthood. It also helps to have a game plan that you create together so that everyone knows what has changed and what to expect.
* Parents. Just as your kids need time to transition in and out of school, you need those times as well. I remember when I was a stay-at-home mom with young children, I wanted another adult to talk to at the end of the day. My husband would walk in the door and I was waiting to tell him what went on. He’d ask me to wait a few minutes (it was always way more than a few minutes). I was frustrated as he went through his routines. Of course, he was also mentally transitioning from work to home and family.
Calm transitions don’t happen because you walk through a doorway. They take time, and sometimes planning. You cannot know what is going on in someone else’s mind, nor can they know yours. Don’t guess. Take this golden opportunity to discuss and share what is, what you need, and how to make transitions as stress-free as possible.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She learned that caring and good intentions are not enough… in fact, they are often the problem. Fern supports parents of teens and young adults going through difficult situations, from homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to reach their potential and thrive through life’s challenges. www.fernweis.com