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Regression during Transitions: Helping Children Navigate Change

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Transitions are an inevitable part of a child's life, whether it's starting a new school, moving to a different home, or welcoming a new sibling. While these changes are necessary for growth, they can often trigger regression in children. Regression refers to the temporary return to earlier behaviors or developmental stages. Understanding and supporting children through regression during transitions is crucial for their emotional well-being. In this blog, we will explore why regression occurs during transitions and provide strategies to help children navigate these challenging periods.

Understanding the Reasons for Regression: When faced with significant changes, children may regress as a way to cope with their feelings of uncertainty and stress. Some common reasons for regression include:

  • Seeking comfort and security: Reverting to behaviors from earlier stages can provide a sense of familiarity and security during times of change.

  • Attention-seeking: Children may unconsciously revert to attention-seeking behaviors as a means of receiving additional support and reassurance during transitions.

  • Emotional overload: The emotional strain of transitions can overwhelm children, leading to temporary regression as a means of emotional release.

Maintaining Consistency and Routine: During times of transition, maintaining consistency and routine can provide a sense of stability for children. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Establish predictable schedules: Create daily routines that include regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and designated times for activities and play.

  • Offer reassurance and predictability: Clearly communicate upcoming changes and provide a structured plan to help children understand what to expect. c)

  • Incorporate familiar objects: Surround children with familiar items such as blankets, toys, or photographs to provide comfort and a sense of continuity.

Validate and Normalize Feelings: Transitions can be overwhelming for children, and it's crucial to validate their feelings and normalize their experiences. Here's how you can do that:

  • Encourage open communication: Create a safe space for children to express their emotions and concerns without judgment.

  • Offer empathy and understanding: Validate their feelings by acknowledging their challenges and assuring them that their emotions are normal and understandable.

  • Provide age-appropriate explanations: Help children understand the reasons behind the transition and reassure them that their feelings are heard and valued.

Encourage Expression through Play and Creativity: Play and creativity can serve as powerful tools for children to process their emotions and navigate transitions. Consider the following approaches:

  • Role-play and storytelling: Engage in imaginative play or storytelling where children can act out different scenarios related to the transition, enabling them to explore their feelings and gain a sense of control.

  • Art and journaling: Encourage children to express their emotions through art, drawing, or writing in a journal. This can help them externalize their feelings and gain insights into their experiences.

  • Playdates and social interaction: Facilitate opportunities for children to connect with peers who may be going through similar transitions. This allows them to share experiences and support one another.

Transitions can be challenging for children, often resulting in regression as they navigate unfamiliar territory. By understanding the reasons behind regression, maintaining consistency and routine, validating their feelings, and encouraging expression through play and creativity, we can help children navigate change with resilience and emotional well-being.

Play therapy is a powerful therapeutic approach that can greatly benefit children struggling with transitions. During times of change, play therapy provides a safe and supportive environment where children can express their emotions, fears, and anxieties through play. Through play, children can externalize their internal struggles, process complex feelings, and gain a sense of control over their experiences. Play therapy allows children to explore different scenarios, role-play, and engage in creative expression, which can help them make sense of transitions and develop healthy coping strategies. With the guidance of a trained play therapist, children can build resilience, enhance emotional well-being, and navigate transitions with greater confidence and adaptability.

Remember, each child is unique, so adapt these strategies to suit their individual needs, offering patience, love, and support as they embrace new chapters in their lives.

As a parent or caregiver, your understanding and guidance will play a vital role in helping children successfully navigate transitions and emerge stronger on the other side.

Do you think your Teen or Child could benefit from therapy? Speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your Teen or Child could benefit from play therapy, Click here to get in touch today, or if you want to know if Play Therapy could be suitable for your Teen or Child, click here to take our quiz!

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