Let’s talk about transitions. Transitions can be hard for some teens. Teens enjoy sleeping in on the weekends, hanging out with friends (virtually or in person), and not thinking about school. Monday morning rolls around and they have trouble getting up on time, seem more irritable than usual, and say things like, “I hate school!” Parents also have to transition to work or getting teens ready for school. Parents may be grumbling about their own transition and tempers are hot.
How do we help our teens to have a smoother transition? I would give warning the night or afternoon before. I would say something like, “I know you’ve had a blast sleeping in and playing video games with your friends and you will need to get up earlier tomorrow for school.” I would empathize with any complaints about how school is prison and there’s no point in going to school. As a parent I would share my own thoughts and feelings around Mondays. I would say, “I also have a hard time getting up earlier and I feel annoyed when I think about work again after a relaxing weekend.” We are modeling for our teens that transitions are not all rainbows and unicorns but they are something everyone has to contend with.
There are many different kinds of transitions. One is the transition from the weekend to the weekday. Other major ones are preschool to Kindergarten, 5th grade to middle school, 8th grade to highschool, and highschool to college. During my assessments of teen clients I often inquire about these transitions to get a sense of how my clients encounter and handle challenges. One of the first books I read in graduate school was called Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Chances by William Bridges. That book introduced me to the important concept of growth. As I say to my clients, growth hurts.
I believe transitions are excellent practice for growth. If teens can handle transitions more smoothly they can deal with challenges better. As adults we need to help our teens learn how to cope with changes but we don’t need to do everything for them. We can validate their feelings around transitions without feeling like we need to take their pain away. Life is painful at times and one of the best things we can offer our teens is to be present during their pain rather than trying to resolve it.