21 April, 2015

Helping our kids thrive in transition

I read this helpful article about helping kids thrive during transitions and have been thinking about what rocks we have in our lives that help define our family. Here are a few:

* Birthdays. We (almost always) give gifts at breakfast and have a family party with a
Always a birthday cake. I can't believe
this young man is turning 10 next week!
special cake (often themed for the kids) for dinner.
* Camping. We’ve been camping in Japan and Australia 20 times in the last five years. It turns out that no matter which place you camp in, there is a feeling of familiarity about the routine. It's become something that defines our family. Something that is portable and is like a tradition. No matter where we camp, or what equipment we use, it's a familiar activity and binds us together.
* Recipes. I have a bunch of relatively basic meals and sweets that I like and my family likes. I make them regularly no matter which country we’re in.
* Music definitely comes with us. Easy now that everything can be digital.
* Each other, of course.
* Nightly routine. Including dinner together, then teeth, individual Bible and prayer times, reading.
*SQUIRT. Special Quiet Uninterrupted Individual Reading Time. Well, theoretically all these. Basically reading or doing some quiet activity on your own, preferably on your bed or a couch. We do this routinely on weekends and holidays after lunch, when feasible. The boys don’t even fight it now.
Special interests. This year in Australia we’ve gone to great lengths to allow our oldest to continue his love of wrestling, last home assignment he was into basketball and we facilitate that too. The continuity has helped our teenager more than he realises. The other two haven't had such strong attachments to special interests, though we've facilitated our middle son's interest in percussion this time around.

The second article in the above series is Paper or documenting their journey. I don't know that we've done this much, except for making photo albums of our four years in Japan, including double page spreads for each of our boys. This has been a special book for our boys as we've gone around visiting people. I often find our 12 year old standing in front of our mission stand browsing through our photo album (as if he can't see it any other time). If people are interested, the guys love to talk to people about the photos of their lives.

The third article in the series was scissors = simplicity. In transition making things as simple as possible is helpful.

Some ways we do this in our family are:
We planned a few days holiday in our last transition as
we entered Australia. A special treat was snorkelling
on the reef.

  • Planning ahead. If you ask us about what we're doing now, there is a lot of detail that we're planning for, right up to early August. But it includes things like planning meals, where we'll be sleeping in the last days before moving back to Japan, and letting the boys know a little way ahead of time what is planned.
  • Look after ourselves. We're planning holiday time too. Or down-time in the midst of the transition. We're even planning to speed up all that needs doing in that last 10 days, to ensure we get down-time before we leave. Oh, and holiday time on the other side too, seeing as we'll arrive several weeks before school starts again.
  • Being comfortable with saying no. We're careful about what we say yes to around transition times. We're trying to keep June clear of outside speaking engagements. I've said no to picking up the threads of the magazine editing until August.
  • Asking for help. We don't try to do everything ourselves, though that is sometimes hard because we do tend to be self-reliant in many areas.
What experience do you have with big transition and children? What's worked or not worked for you?

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