Managing Life Transitions with Your Children
By Diane Mohammadioun
Each and every one of us is faced with transitions. Life is full of them. Some require more strength than others — marriage, motherhood, childcare, in-laws, moving — for the most part, these seem typical and part of life. Then we are asked to make the painful transition of letting our kids go off to pre-k then first grade, high school, and college. All more transitions, and yes, difficult. Then there’s the news you have a child with special needs. Each is different, sometimes it is mild, sometimes severe. We are asked to change, to accept, to adjust. I have found that all are wrapped under the “transition” umbrella, so to speak. I tend to be pretty visual, so when I was told my son had autism I pictured a physical umbrella with all these feelings and emotions coming down like rain. I told myself I would deal with them one at a time. I also try to put the word “transition” in a more basic tangible context. We have to make it to the next one and the next one and the next one.
I have been getting my son ready for his transitions all his life. Meanwhile, he was having to endure them. This makes us sad and hurts because we go through transitions with our child. We feel their anxieties, their disappointments, and their fears. So, therefore, we are in transition every day. The big one is having to have them go somewhere else besides your home because it’s finite. It is seen as the end. The hope we had is not coming about. In our case, autism is still there. We struggle all the time with our feelings and emotions, and how their future is going to not only affect them but us too. This particular transition does not simply transcend us into happy people because our children have now been able to make it without us. In fact for me, in the beginning, it felt I had made the best decision. I was proud of my search for the great program my son was in and he was doing okay, then better, then not, then okay. I don’t know if there is any formula for preparing us for this transition. Its pain is beyond explaining. You will feel alone, lonely, angry, sad, even when transitions are successful. The knowing that time is passing, all my years of teaching, of seeing my son smiling, getting off the bus, wanting to please me — those things make me smile and give my low days a joy.
I can’t say “embrace transitions.” Only know that millions of other parents go through them. Know in your heart all the good work you have done to get your child to this point when you feel like crying. When I go to see my son it is still painful. As my husband says, I don’t think you ever accept or get past that. Again, the only advice I can give anyone in transition is that in life there are things that hurt everyone. I once read in a letter to the writer’s mother: “I don’t wish to color my world blue anymore, color it hopeful once again. That is the best we can seek until the transition is at our door once more.”