Teaching Young Children Resilience Through Transitions

One of the things that strikes me when I talk to parents is a universal desire to raise a resilient child. What is resilience? And how do we go about teaching it to our children?

We liken resilience to being able “to roll with the punches”. In an early education setting, a piece of this is learning how to deal with transitions. Change is inevitable. As the philosopher Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change”. And for a young child, change is about transitioning – from one activity to another, from one person to another, from one setting to another. And for the most part, these transitions are guided or controlled by the adults around them.

I believe there are a few tools that we can use to help children deal with transitions:

  • Recognize that transitions are inevitable: since we can’t avoid transitions, it makes sense to confirm that they are part of life, and we will and can deal with them.
  • Prepare for transitions: as educators in an early childhood setting, we know that teachers will come and go, so we strive to minimize the impact of any transition on our children and their families. This means that when a teacher decides to leave the program, we plan and we train – simply put, we ease the new teacher into our classroom routine, and ease the outgoing teacher out of it. Preparation is key – and as part of that, we understand that we sometimes need outside resources (counselors, social workers, etc.) for support.
  • Be open to the fact that it’s OK for a teacher to leave: It is only natural that parents are concerned about turnover in a school. Every director strives to keep the number of teachers transitioning in and out of a program to a minimum at any given time. But the reality is that we want our teachers to learn and grow when they are with us – we want to foster open communication, and we want our educators to reach for goals and work collaboratively. Part of this team approach involves being open to a teacher wanting to grow beyond our program. For the children, changes at school help them learn how to prepare and deal with changes at home: a new babysitter, a new family member. Change is part of life, and it is OK.
  • The Key Lies in the 5 Minute Warning: Part of this communicative environment is to let the children know what they can expect. We let them know what the transition will look like, when it will happen, what to expect and why it’s happening. This open discussion helps children learn to talk about change and what it means. Being supportive allows children to voice any concerns or questions and get honest answers. We have had great success with this in our program, and I believe it is a great tool to give children for their coping toolbox.

Recognizing that change is inevitable in life and helping children learn to deal with it is a life lesson. I believe that arming our children with tools and coping mechanisms helps them grow, be strong and resilient, and roll with the punches.



Nurturing, Educating, and Empowering Children