by John and Rebecca Leverington
Transitions bring with them the paradox of opportunity and danger––opportunity for change, and apprehension and uncertainty regarding the future. The sooner we begin to expand our thinking, focusing on specific kinds of opportunity and how these can be achieved, and how perceived dangers can be minimized, the more quickly our sense of competency and confidence returns.
- CONSULT––A helper (personnel worker or counselor) can give insight, courage, and direction by identifying:
- the changes that are in focus
- our personal style of dealing with change
- the ways in which we are resilient and able to make necessary changes
- EXAMINE––Some basic needs may be ignored and/or go unmet during times of transition, especially when that transition is sudden or unexpected. Be especially aware of the need:
- to be accepted, loved and valued
- to feel cared for
- to have secure attachments with special people
- to belong to a group, not be a stranger
- to have personal control
- to have choice
- to have predictability
- COPING STRATEGIES––Because most people in transition experience some sense of disorientation and need time to adjust, it is helpful to be aware of useful coping strategies, such as the following:
- Invite new relationships by doing caring, loving things. Reach out.
- Develop strategies to deal with the unpredictability. Find out as much as you can.
- Remember there’s more than one way to live. Be flexible.
- Normalize the experience. Change is part of life (I Peter 5:8b; I Cor. 10:13).
- Give support and personal validation to each other.
- Find areas of choice, no matter how small, and exercise them.
- Find areas of control, no matter how small, and exercise them.
- Use the experience to strengthen our spousal, family, partner relationships. Increase communicate skills.
- Use transitions of all kinds (those chosen in obedience to the Lord, those placed upon us by changes in circumstances, or those forced on us by disaster or danger) as opportunities to allow the Lord to deepen, strengthen, and change us. The Lord Jesus experienced many transitions; read the gospels to see how He managed them. The Psalms, especially Ps. 84:4-8, are filled with lessons for transition times. These lessons include:
- finding our home in God (vs. 4)
- maintaining an attitude of praise (vs. 4b)
- drawing strength from God (vs. 5a)
- having set our heart on pilgrimage—following Christ (vs. 5b)
- using these hard experiences for others’ benefit (vs. 6)
- using these hard experiences to increase personal resilience (vs. 7)
In summary, six key facts help us deal with transitions:
- Different people transition at different paces, in different ways.
- The same people transition at different rates each time.
- Even good transitions involve loss and require adjustment.
- Ask, “What will it take to handle this transition, and make it OK for each member of my family?”
- Take time for rituals, both when leaving and when arriving. Moving rituals might include:
- ways to say good-by that are meaningful and create good memories.
- Walk though the house together, giving thanks for events that occurred there.
- Take pictures of the house, of favorite places – make a photo album of places to remember.
- Have a farewell dinner at a favorite place – talk about things to look forward to.
- Leave the house clean.
- ways to reestablish routine once you arrive.
- Find a time and place to exercise, to have your personal devotions.
- Get everyone’s bedrooms set up right away – provide personal space.
- Establish friendships as soon as possible – go to church.
- Maintain bedtime rituals to minimize the children’s disorientation.
- Bring God into the process and acknowledge Him. He IS in control.
Remember: When we go through a transition, we can become very subjective and sensitive, and may misinterpret others’ words and behavior. In the same way that we need to be patient with ourselves, we also need consciously to extend patience and presume good will on the part of people around us.
Note: Probably the best information on transitions can be found in the book of Psalms and in the hymnbook! However, Transitions by William Bridges is also useful and helpful.