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A Time to Review, Reflect, Reassure

What will the next thing be like? When our children are about to make a transition, it’s natural to want to talk to them about the positive ways their lives will change. Culturally, we tend to view this as a form of reassurance. Yet imagining the future prematurely can make children feel anxious and cause them to regress in surprising ways.

The period before a change is actually a perfect time to talk about the past and review a children’s growth and accomplishments, especially over the past year. Adults  are children’s historians, the ones who help them build an autobiography. Psychologists note that one of the ways children construct their sense of who they are is through reminiscence of previous events in their lives.

In a practical way, hearing about their accomplishments bolsters children’s self-esteem for the next steps they’ll be taking. Reflecting on what we've done well balances out the human tendency to look ahead with trepidation. “When you started kindergarten, you didn’t know all the sounds of the letters. Now look how much you know!” “You’ve gained so many amazing writing skills in first grade!” Children’s progress can be recorded in scrapbooks of work, an album of photos (“Look how big you are now!”) or as a springboard for talking together about memories.

Perhaps most importantly, parents and teachers can chronicle the ways they've handled challenges in the past. “Remember when you didn't know anyone in your class? Look how many friends you have now!” It helps to stay aware that children wonder if they're capable of handling the next challenge, even if they deny it. Looking at evidence of past growth (rather than lecturing on how well they're going to do) fills their cups with the taste of past glory—and propels their confidence that they can handle life.

The basis for supporting children through change is believing they will do well, and talking about all their growth and success reminds us of that reality.


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