Transitions are often the toughest parts of life. Leaving something familiar for something else altogether is one of the experiences often ranked as the most stressful in our world. Whether it’s a new house or breaking up, a job shift or a new child, transitioning into a new normal is anything but easy. We crave routine and ways of knowing and trusting experiences and people we are familiar with. 

While we can identify and name the big transitions in our adult lives, it’s also important to holistically see the scale of transitions within the lives of our kiddos. Of course moving, or having parents separate are both big moments in a child’s life. But in the instant it happens, the need to transition from playtime to bedtime can feel just as monumental and overwhelming for little ones. Change is everywhere and while it may be disproportionate in some settings, it’s a constant part of our lives. 

In his seminal book, On Becoming a Person, the psychologist Carl Rogers writes about the transitional nature of life “Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed.” He goes on to distill this truism into the individual level: “. . . a person is a fluid process, not a fixed and static entity; a flowing river of change, not a block of solid material; a continually changing constellation of potentialities, not a fixed quantity of traits.” In this way, we are all not only moving and transforming, we are also constantly in relationship with transitions.

Such a relationship is a critical skill to model for young children because it gives them the tools and language to integrate a transition and apply it to their understanding of the world. Some transitions may be especially difficult if they involve needing to do things that one doesn’t want to do in the middle of a transition. Needing to stop playing can be hard. Having to cleanup can be harder. Then heading to brush teeth and go to bed can feel like too much. Altogether, what seems like a simple transition can turn an enjoyable night into a sour one. 

In these moments, consider two things: forming new habits and playfully tracking transitions. What might happen if these moments turned into a game? What might happen if these steps could be checked off a list with pictorial expectations? What might happen if this transition becomes a habit which is learned, as we know from the science of habit formation, through a clear trigger, repetition, and reward? Each of these questions can be answered more easily after they’re practiced time and time again. And when routines change and transitions shift in speed and location, the skills of working through these tough parts will become deeper. Applying previous knowledge is critical to development and critical thinking. 

As we all feel the power of transitions, in our day to day and in bigger life moments, I invite you to lean into the power of transitions and the potential for growth they hold for you and your community. Sometimes they mean leaving old ways of being behind in favor of something even more exciting and challenging. Here’s to becoming, as Carl Rogers challenges us, a “constellation of potentialities”.