Planning For Transitions

“Hey Dad, I signed up to go to Destination Unknown with the youth group in a couple of weeks!” It was a Wednesday night, and these are the words our youngest son greeted me with as I picked him up from AWANA (the church program for the younger children).  “I’m sorry, what did you say?” was my instant reply.  My knee jerk response was to want to say, “No, you’re not ready for that”.

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Instead, after he repeated what he said, I sat there slightly stunned. I could only manage a  weak, “We’ll need to talk to your mom about that when we get home.”

Sarah was just as shocked as I was. Sometimes change can be just as difficult for us as parents as it can be for our son who struggles with change. It’s not because we don’t want him to grow and keep moving forward. No, there is a fear of the unknown and how he will do.

With each transition and each new event, there is are a litany of questions running through our brains like the words of a teleprompter on a screen. Can he handle the extra stressors? Can he handle that long of a time without us being with him as a safety net? Will he know how to order food that he can eat if they eat out at a restaurant? How will he handle things when he is extra tired and stressed out? The list of questions goes on and then repeats itself over and over. 

Sarah and I talked. We prayed and we talked some more. Finally, we decided to let him go for it and see how it goes. However, we didn’t agree to let him go and then just cross our fingers in hopes that everything would go smoothly.

Sarah put on the proactive parent/advocate hat and put together a “What you need to know about our son” fact sheet for the youth pastor. On this sheet she included:

  1. Food allergies

  2. What situations he tends to react to more and other pertinent information

  3. How he responds when he is overly stressed

  4. Tips for the leaders on coming alongside him (which sometimes means giving him space) when he is overly stressed

Next, instead of just emailing the information to the youth pastor or trying to catch him after youth group or church, we set up an appointment to sit down with him mid-week and walk him through the information.  This allowed for a time when he wasn’t rushed and could ask any questions that he might have about how to handle different situations.

The youth pastor was happy to meet with us and was grateful to learn more about how to come alongside our son. This time we had together also served to boost our confidence in how smoothly this transition would go – hopefully.  

Each of you go through transitions with your children and each transition is different. What has been the most beneficial thing that you have been able to do to help your child transition as smoothly as possible?

Written by Jonathan McGuire

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Jonathan McGuire  is  the father of two sons and the co-founder of Hope Anew, a nonprofit that comes alongside the parents of children impacted by disability on a spiritual and emotional level. You can follow Hope Anew on Facebook here.