Q&A: Staying Steady Through Transition

Q&A: Staying Steady Through Transition // jessconnell.com

In the recent Reader Survey, this question came through. It’s one I get asked from time to time, given our history of having lived abroad, in 14 different homes in 14 years of marriage, and doing all of that as a young, growing family:

Q: You have been in various states of transition over the past 8(?) years, as well as intentionally raising littles during that time…maybe you have some wisdom to share? Specifically, I am wondering- how do you keep a schedule for kids when you are in different places, time zones, housing situations, etc.

Also, how do you stay steady for kids when you, yourself, don’t feel emotionally “sure” or “stable”? Sometimes in the waiting room of life the anxiety or demands of the upcoming season encroach on the current one.

A: I do have some thoughts about this. They may come out scatter-shot, but I pray they will be helpful.

FIRST, A FEW OVERARCHING THINGS:

  1. DO WHAT IS NECESSARY FOR SANE DAILY LIFE FIRST. — I wrote more about this here: 21 Ways to Help Your Family THRIVE Through Transition, but the main takeaway is this: Major on the majors. First things first, help your whole family (including you, mama) to eat well & get good sleep. Let other things fall by the wayside, but focus on good sleep & regular meals.
  2. DEAL WITH YOUR EMOTIONS PROACTIVELY. — One great piece of advice we got when preparing to move overseas was to say good “goodbyes.” There’s a larger application than merely how you hug and what you say at the airport. Namely: Don’t walk away without having dealt with what you’re walking away from. Or, if you can’t help it (say, you have to move on to a new job even though there’s still unfinished business related to the old one), deal with it as you are walking. Don’t walk away and “stuff” it down inside without being dealt with. Work through what’s “back there,” behind you. Deal with your past. Deal with difficult relationships. As far as it depends on you, leave things in a “peaceful” state.
  3. KEEP CURRENT. Ask forgiveness as soon as you realize you’ve botched it. Offer forgiveness freely. Don’t carry a long list of grudges and wounds along with you. You’ll feel a lot more emotionally at rest if you are only dealing with what’s right in front of you rather than also trying to stay mad about all the things that have happened since the dawn of time.
  4. DON’T BORROW TROUBLE. The Bible says “do not be anxious” about a gazillion times. So, Christian mama, don’t worry about more than what is right here in front of you. Part of what is so wonderful about going through difficult seasons is that I believe it is God’s way of teaching us to “STOP IT!” Stop gathering more manna than you need for this day. Stop worrying about whether or not you’ll have manna on the ground tomorrow. Just ask for your daily bread, gather it up, and be grateful. Do not take on stress from future things. Entrust your future to God– He’s the only One who can *REALLY* do anything about it anyhow.

OK, NOW FOR SPECIFICALLY DEALING WITH KIDS:

  • ESTABLISH A FLEXIBLE ROUTINE AS SOON AS YOU CAN. Do what works for your family, but get into good habits from the get-go. Don’t let jet lag or time zone dictate whether or not there will be naps for the next three weeks. You might gently adjust the times at which they happen, but meals and sleep should happen with regularity and predictability. This allows everyone to embrace the new normal. Don’t let transition drag on too long. Jump in and help everyone feel more normal by establishing a routine. (Remember, I said “flexible” though- when you’re running to the grocery that stocks different ingredients, or cooking meals without all your pots, or your husband is adjusting to a new work routine with extra meetings and less-than-regular hours, flexibility is key!) 
  • BE IN AWE OF THE “NEW.” Try to find the joy in the little things. Notice what’s different, point it out to your children, and marvel at it together. Our first week overseas, we delighted by Chinese vehicles that were unlike what we’d ever seen in America. In Thailand, it was the tuk-tuks and bamboo tiki houses; in Hong Kong, high rises and double-decker buses. When we came back to America, things like clean water fountains, the varieties of skin color (all in one place, as opposed to the places we’d lived where skin was monochromatic), and all the pickup trucks (in Texas!) were what we noticed. When we came to Washington, the natural beauty has kept us all in awe. We still gawk at Mt. St. Helens every time we drive past it on the I-5. By encouraging our kids to “marvel,” we are fanning the flames of curiosity and wonder, lifting their eyes up to things bigger than they are, and teaching them to have gratitude in the midst of the unknown. It does wonder for our hearts as well, as we opt for awe over anxiety.
  • TALK, TALK, TALK ABOUT EXPECTATIONS. Help them anticipate things rightly. Plans. What people will be like. Whether or not they’ll have their own bed and blanket and stuffed animals right away, or whether it’ll be more like a week before things start to feel normal for them. What we’ll do for breakfast. Communicate that it won’t always feel like this, that these new experiences/foods/plans/living arrangements/whatever will only be for X amount of time, and then we’ll be doing Y.
  • KISS, SNUGGLE A LOT. Give your husband and your kiddos extra lovins.
  • DO NOT STOP DISCIPLINING. Normal-ish rules apply. Sure, after getting off a 15-hour plane ride, a 2-year-old may have an extra meltdown, which will likely mean getting a nap and sleep and food more quickly, but hitting mom is never OK. Screaming with an ugly, angry attitude is never OK. A friend of mine, who had raised her own 4 children amidst plenty of transition and globe-trotting puts it this way: “some things are NEVER OK.” Don’t excuse what is inexcusable. Sure, everyone gets a little touchy when jet lag sets in, but touchiness and rudeness are two different things. Don’t put up with what you shouldn’t put up with. Help your kids adjust to the new place/schedule by helping them realize the same rules apply here, too. Rudeness, disobedience, defiance are not allowed, even in transition.
  • EMPHASIZE GOD’S PRESENCE. Remind them where real security is– not in having a duplicate sippy cup that is exactly like the one they had “back home,” or in being able to carry their blanket everywhere they go, or in having friends that they like… remind them that God is always with us (Psalm 121 is a great one to read aloud together, as well as Ps. 139:1-10) and to derive comfort and peace from His faithful presence no matter where we go in life.
  • EMPHASIZE GOD’S SOVEREIGN CARE– Look for every opportunity God gives you to point out that He GREATLY LOVES us, that He is providing each need along the way. Help them to feel secure by directing them toward the things that OUGHT to give them security– God’s Word & activity in their lives. THINGS are fleeting. PLACES are fleeting. RELATIONSHIPS don’t always last. But God’s Word lasts forever. His promises and plans are perfect. Even now, you are discipling them by helping them (and you) to focus on God’s sovereign care in life.

 

These are the things that come to mind for me as I think back to all the times we have helped our children through transition.

And to you, I say– Hang in there, Mama. Take care of the “boring,” daily things first. Make sure you’ve got realistic expectations. Remember it won’t always be this way. Smile & laugh! And don’t forget to notice God’s sovereign care!

WHAT THINGS HAVE HELPED YOU & YOUR FAMILY THROUGH ANY TRANSITIONS YOU’VE EXPERIENCED?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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10 Responses

  1. Christy says:

    We are definitely in a season of transition, and I appreciate all of these helpful tips. So timely for me!

  2. Jessica says:

    I completely agree on keeping a relative routine going! Routines and continuing on with parental authority in firmness but love are the pillars of keeping everyone happy and healthy emotionally even through changing and trying seasons. I wish I’d known these things earlier!!! Routines are wonderful! Oh and not going a lot of places also helps. The less places I take the kids the easier it is to stay on routine.

    • Jess Connell says:

      GREAT tip! In fact, I’m going to amend the article to include a point about behavior/discipline.

    • Jess Connell says:

      GREAT point, about not going a lot of places. I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately (not in regard to transition, just in normal everyday families).

      Seems like a lot of “stay-home” moms are addicted to going places…going-going-going to different activities, studies, playdates, shopping, events. I can’t imagine the level of stress and exhaustion that produces, compounded over time, in the life of the family and particularly in the little body of each child that lives a life of constant going-going-going without any downtime, without any ability to experience and overcome “boredom,” and without any downtime with mom, just snuggling and doing everyday things.

      Thoughts? Anyone else noticing this?

      • Sandrine says:

        Well, I’m hardly going anywhere those days… with four kids from 18 months to 6 year old, homeschooling and expecting a fifth, I don’t have energy for this. (Especially with the canadian winter that doesn’t want to end – there is still soooo much snow on the ground!) Except for grocery shopping and church-related activities, I’m home. I was kind of feeling guilty about not going out more, but after reading what you say, I think that it may be the best I can do for now…

  3. Kathryn says:

    Thanks Jess,

    Good things to remember while we move to our new farm.

  4. Allison says:

    I have a question about the idea of not going many places. I certainly can vouch for the idea that things really do run more smoothly when you don’t go very many places. My home is over-all calmer, we have more wholesome dinners, laundry is done, etc, however, where my question lies is, how do you practically speaking balance that with the need for your kids to be well-socialized and involved in the community at large?

    I’m not buying into the “homeschoolers-are-unsocialized” myth. I was homeschooled myself and am homeschooling my kindergartener now, but overall, I still struggle with wondering if I’m getting my oldest two boys (ages 6 and 4) out and around kids their own age enough. We go to church on Sunday, stay home all day Monday, run a few errands on Tuesdays, have a playgroup for a few hours on Wednesdays, a homeschool co-op most of the day Thursdays, stay home Friday morning, after which a baby-sitter comes for the afternoon so I can sleep before working that night (I’m a nurse who works nightshift once a week), then we spend Saturday as a family most weeks (well, at least after I sleep for a few hours after working all night).

    I have well-meaning family members and co-workers encouraging me to get them out and involved in lessons and sports, etc, and while I agree that they’d enjoy those things, they’re A) expensive and B) just one more thing to commit to. I don’t feel too busy, but I feel that if I add anything more in, I would be. At the same time, I don’t want my boys to feel that they were deprived the opportunity to pursue their interests. Anyone have practical thoughts on that?

    • Jess Connell says:

      I think I’ll expand on this for a future article, but here are a few questions that help me think about this:

      * While they were growing up, what sort of socialization with same/similar-aged peers do you think King David, Jesus, Marco Polo, George Washington, or pioneer children had?
      * What do you think it is that makes our society think same/similar-aged peer influence is a pursuit-worthy thing? Do you think all societies have always felt this way? Does the Bible present this as a valuable goal for 4 & 6 year olds?
      * What do you think will influence your adult sons in their feelings about their childhood? Do you think it is possible to influence the way they see this? If so, in what ways?
      * Should it be our goal to continually parent our children in ways that will mitigate any future possible chance of them looking back with any feelings of regret or deprivation? Should other goals be higher than this? If so, when should those goals outrank the first set of goals?

      I ask these questions to start conversations and provoke thought, not to condemn present or future course of action for anyone. But these type of questions are the things I ask myself when I’m thinking through priorities, and help me consider why I’m valuing certain things as a woman in 2015.

      • Allison says:

        Oh, thank you, that is so encouraging! I totally agree with you, deep down inside. My husband and I are definitely doing things pretty different from the mainstream, and I find it easy to get a tad discouraged (perhaps insecure?) when I “compare notes” with others. But I really believe that my children need to be at home with me more than they need to be in sports or music lessons and that we need family dinners more than soccer practices, and time together reading and talking about God’s word more than we need preschool. It’s just hard to be, as I’ve heard it described, “a salmon swimming upstream” against the cultural norms. For that reason, I find it so helpful to hear from other sisters in Christ who are thinking along those lines too. :)

  5. Kondwani says:

    I love it, and your story of God making you grow through these transitions is a great model for our family. We move a lot (sometimes for just a few months, sometimes longer) – the next move will be in September for 3-4 years, back to another African country.

    These are my thoughts on home education whilst on the move. In fact, if we weren’t home educating, I have no idea how we would manage it. I don’t think it would be possible.

    http://homeeducationnovice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/practicalities-of-home-education-on-move.html

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