Last Updated 17 Aug 2022

How Different Types of Transition Can Effect a Child Development

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Explain how different types of transition can affect children and young people’s development

Transitions are changes that take place in our life, changes which can occur over a short or long period of time, can be physical, emotional, personal or psychological, and can be predictable or unpredictable. Life is full of changes and every child and young person will go through many transitions. Some of them may have a positive effect (such as an increased level of motivation or improved self–esteem); others may have the opposite effect.

The experiences of a child or young person when dealing with transitions will affect, positively or negatively, his development, and can have an important role in learning the skills to cope with other changes later in life. Some transitions (such as starting school, moving through curriculum stages or puberty) are predictable. Children should be prepared in advance, and have the opportunity to talk and ask questions about these changes. In this way any negative impacts can be minimised, and the transition should be less stressful for the child or young person.

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This approach can be applied to any predictable transition, whether educational, physical or physiological, and the approach can be beneficial even for such small changes as moving from one activity to another in the classroom. For some transitions, the child or young person cannot be prepared in advance, and there will be no opportunity to discuss the change before it happens. Changes such as bereavement, family break-up or serious illness are generally unpredictable.

Because these changes are not anticipated, they can cause distress and feelings of lack of control in the child or young person. This can affect emotional and behavioural development, in turn leading to possible impacts on physiological and intellectual development. Family break-up is an example of a transition which may involve other significant changes in a child or young person‘s life. The child or young person’s life seems to have turned upside down, causing confusion and uncertainty.

The child or young person can experience powerful emotions of anger, sadness, fear and insecurity. For many children, their emotional distress may cause changes in behaviour. Some children or young people will not be able to show their feelings or to talk with others about what they are going through; they may isolate themselves, becoming quiet and withdrawn. In others, the reaction may be the opposite; they may become verbally or even physically aggressive or just generally less cooperative - slamming doors, staying out late or getting into trouble.

A good relationship between the child or young person and his practitioners can have a positive effect on their emotions. The practitioners must learn to recognise signs of transition anxiety, including body language, changes of behaviour, or changes in their work. Sometimes a child or young person may find it easier to express their feelings and thoughts through art work, stories or poems, than to articulate such complex emotions verbally. Starting primary school is a predictable, intellectual transition, which can be emotionally upsetting for some children.

They may experience anxiety and stress when they first attend the new setting or meet a new teacher. There are a lot of changes involved – it will often be their first experience of being separated from their parents for any length of time; their routine changes with the hours at school and the longer periods of concentration required; they need to make new friends, undertake new activities and adhere to new rules. They can start showing anxiety and sadness at moving school which will affect their behaviour, and may result in regression and clinginess?

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