Transcript for
Supporting children through school transitions during COVID-19

Runtime 00:37:27
Released 13/12/21

Narrator (00:02): Welcome to The Emerging Minds Podcast. 


Ben Rogers (00:07): Welcome everyone. My name is Ben Rogers from Emerging Minds. Today, I’m joined by Kathryn Hopps, a researcher and educator to talk about supporting children with transitions. Kathryn is an adjunct research associate at Charleston University and a consultant on the Be You Mental Health in Education Initiative. Kathryn has worked as an early childhood educator and primary school teacher in a diverse range of education settings. Her research expertise is in the transitions that children and young people experience, and her PhD study focused on transitions to primary school. Thanks for joining us today, Kathryn. 


Kathryn Hopps (00:44): Thanks, Ben. It’s really great to be here. 


Ben Rogers (00:46): Kathryn, supporting children with transition is a relevant and important topic for many families, including mine. What drew you into working with children around this area? 


Kathryn Hopps (00:57): I’ve been working in and around the early childhood education sector for over 20 years now in various roles, but I trained originally as an early childhood and primary school teacher and I worked across a range of education settings from early learning and primary schools and school-age care as well. Because the degree I started enabled me to work with children from birth to 12 years of age. I was really interested in the educational transitions that occur across that age band and in particular, the differences across education setting. 


(01:32): Early on, I was working as a casual teacher and working with, for example, four and five-year-old children in a preschool setting one day of the week, but then the same age children, four and five-year-old children in the first year of school on another day of the week. I’d be called Miss Hopps in the school setting and Kathryn in preschool, but it was the same person and the same educator in each space. That interest in transition just really grew with the experience on the ground and eventually I stepped away from teaching to pursue a PhD about transition to school and it’s continued as an interest of mine and now as there’s renewed interest in transitions from the education community and families because of the pandemic, it’s a topic that’s generating a lot of discussion. 


Ben Rogers (02:17): Kathryn, as we talk today, there’s many children across the country who are returning to school and back into the community following the pandemic. There’s also a large cohort of children who are transitioning into primary school for the first time. I’m sure that parents have heard the word transition used a lot during this period. Can you help us unpack a little bit about what transitions are? 


Kathryn Hopps (02:38): Sure, Ben. Transitions involve some movement between, but also within children settings or environments. Examples of settings or environments could be the home, the school, or the early learning service, or it could be a school-aged care service as well. But transitions are more than just a one-off event, or a single happening. They are actually a period of time where an individual child experiences a range of movements, not just the moving into the physical environment, but also they’ll experience shifts in their role and their identity such as becoming a school student. 


(03:15): They’ll be experiencing shifts and expectations from teachers, from their parents as well and there’ll also be shifts in their relationships with their peers, within their family and with educators. We tend to think a lot about transitions of being time for change, but they’re also about continuity as well. Things that might continue from one setting to another. Transitions also involve children building a sense of belonging and connection engagement to that new setting as well. 


(03:44): They certainly involve adjustment, but what we talk about as transition research is the important aspect of transitions is around relationships being at the core and that it’s not just a shift in the physical environment, or adjusting to a new physical environment, it’s adjusting to a new relational environment as well. As you said, there’s actually many different types of transitions that are happening at the moment and might occur in a child’s life. 


(04:08): My particular expertise is around educational transitions and we talk about horizontal and vertical transitions in education. There’s some really significant vertical ones such as starting primary school for the first time and then there’s a daily horizontal ones that involve moving between home and school or home and an early learning service where it could be between school and a school-aged care, your after school care setting and then back home again all within the same day. Of course there’s many other life transitions for children too aside from education. 


(04:40): Moving house, could be the birth for sibling and they’re absolutely increased interest and attention to transitions at the moment but what I’ve found is the word transition has been used during the pandemic in different circumstances. It wasn’t really a transition because there was a sudden and unexpected change that wasn’t planned for such as a lockdown. The right support weren’t in place. There wasn’t any time to adjust. There wasn’t any time to prepare. 


(05:06): These are more sudden events the period of time afterwards though, that sudden change when those shifts are being navigated by children could be described as a transition. Although, often other transitions were still going on when the next change comes along so it’s been really rapid and this is why multiple transitions are really exhausting. It’s in a transition when people consider adjustment and shifts in belonging and new identity that can take time and can take long periods of time and that process begins before that change and continuing well beyond a first day. 


Ben Rogers (05:39): I think that’s an important note there that transitions take time don’t they? It’s something that just doesn’t happen and really important for us to take a moment to step into children’s shoes and think about the time and support and adjustment that it does take. You referenced this horizontal and vertical transitions through the day and layering on top of that is the pandemic that’s happened to much of Australia and that’s something that I wanted to explore with you and looking at how has COVID impacted children with transitioning back to school and back into the community? 


Kathryn Hopps (06:12): Absolutely. The pandemic has seen children navigating multiple transitions which actually began not so much as a transition but as a sudden unexpected change. I think if you were to ask children and I’ve certainly heard children say, I just wasn’t ready. I just wasn’t ready for this. I’m not ready to go back to school and look, the pandemic has had both positive and not so positive impacts on families and family life and circumstances and relationships. We actually, we don’t know a lot about the impact on children’s transitions in terms of formal research. 


(06:45): A lot of the research is focusing on what is being called losses in educational learning, not so much about social-emotional well-being and relationships and impact on hopes and aspirations during children’s care experiences. Hopefully this will be an area which will draw research attention soon. But what we can say, what we do know from past research, for example, on memories of transition to school, projects conducted by two children and colleagues interviewing people decades on from when they started school, for example. 


(07:18): People in their 60s, 70s, 80s, transitions when people have told their stories it’s apparent that those transitions always occurred in and were influenced by what was happening in the bigger context and in the historical context that period of time. And for children in the last couple of years some of their expected and anticipated transitions have been impacted by a global pandemic, by this historical point in time. They’ve had to adjust to many changes and experience transitions where we were not able to really plan for or support in the best ways. 


(07:55): In many ways, transitions have been additionally challenging and educators and families haven’t been able to do all the things that they would normally do to prepare themselves and children and schools and early learning services preparing themselves for transitions. We also know that in research with children about transitions but also in some of the emerging research about children’s experiences during the pandemic children have said one of the most important things for them is they want to be with their friends and there’s been obvious disruptions to that with lockdown and restrictions on seeing other people. 


(08:29): There’s been disruptions to relationships. I think these are one of the most significant impacts for children. Also, I think another point to make is very early on in the pandemic there was a lot of information especially for children about the pandemic and with transitions we’d recommend that children are really fully informed, they have the information that they can understand and that it’s accessible to them about what’s happening, but that wasn’t the case so there’s been this added uncertainty around transitions in the past couple of years and at the moment, and that is unsettling for sure. 


Ben Rogers (09:02): I’m sure there’s lots of kids out there that are excited to get back into sports, back into the community events and things like that. But we do know that the pandemic has had an impact on children’s mental health and well-being and if we think about families and the families listening to this podcast, what are the things that they can be doing at the moment to support children’s social and emotional well-being? 


(09:23): It’s a really important area, Ben, and it is something that families can do even when there is uncertainty around transitions. I think a really good thing to keep in mind, one of my top recommendations is to make space for children to ask children, invite children, to share with you how they’re feeling or taking that time to listen when they do open up, which can sometimes be in the car on the way to their school or somewhere. Might not always be at the times we expect children to talk about how they’re feeling, but making space when that does them or if they haven’t shared with you, asking and inviting them to talk about their emotions. 


(10:00): It’s really helpful instead of saying things like, “Oh, you must be excited about starting preschool or school.” Instead, ask something a little bit more open like, “How are you feeling about starting preschool?” In that way, asking a question like that we really open up a possibility for a range of emotions to be shared and there often are a range of emotions and it’s really great for children to understand that all of those emotions are okay and it’s normal to be feeling them. 


(10:28): Asking children about their thoughts, their feelings, if they have any questions about a transition, what they might be wondering about. Well, what they might be worried about as well, that allows children the opportunity to talk about them and for us to model their emotions are okay. We can give them some space and time, but also as parents and family members we’ve got an opportunity to model really important skills. If we’re feeling a little bit worried about something, it’s an opportunity to engage in health seeking. 


(10:56): For example, if your child says they’re not sure about something and you are also not sure, we certainly don’t have to have all the answers you can say something like, “I’m not sure either who your teacher’s going to be. Let’s ask the school.” Then you can really model that if we’re not sure we can ask someone for help and then you actually invite the possibility for children to make suggestions as well about who they might ask for help. As well is giving space for emotions and talking openly about emotions, supporting the development of children’s relationships is another way we can support their social-emotional well-being and mental health. 


(11:28): When we connect with other parents, if you’re starting at a new early learning service or a school or you’re moving to a new community, connecting with other parents in order to organise times for children to play together. Or it could even be asking about who children play with at school and talking through with your child any challenges with playing with others. You’re really supporting the development of their social skills and emotional skills which support their relationships and we know that relationships are so important for children during transitions. 


(11:57): I think it’s really great to remember that children also learn a lot from the key adults in their lives about social relationships so when they see you socialise too and make new friends, they’re learning from this too, and all of this can really support their mental health and well-being during transitions. 


Ben Rogers (12:15): You mentioned a few things there, Kathryn, that I want to dive into today. But one of them is looking at the emotions that children face and experience as part of transitions and I step into the shoes of my three-year-old who’s currently having big meltdowns on the transitions into childcare and the ways that he’s trying to communicate to me how he’s feeling at different points, and what are some of the other common challenges that children face but also the parents and families that support children might observe or see for children during transitions? 


Kathryn Hopps (12:47): Look, there’s a lot of challenges around emotions. It can also just be that there’s mixed emotions. It can be, I am feeling excited but I’m also feeling really nervous too and I don’t really want to leave mom or dad, but I do want to go and meet new friends and play so just navigating those emotions can be really challenging. But we do know that when a child starts school or at an early learning service this is actually a time of change for the whole family so there’s adjustments that have to be made to routines, to expectations and roles at home. 


(13:20): That can also be for other life transitions as well, moving house, becoming a sibling, becoming parents again. That can change even things like the relationships between siblings can change and siblings are also adjusting to the new situation. It’s a transition for the whole family and it can be a time of increased stress on families now managing extra things. It can be a time when children’s learning and well-being and relationships are interrupted as well as family’s relationships with educators. It’s the relationship that you have with an educator in early learning service, it’s different at school. 


(13:55): That’s something that requires a bit of adjustment for families as well. But I do want to say that just because it can be a challenging time it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be. Every child and family experiences transitions in their own way and every transition experience is different, but it is a time where I think it’s quite well-recognised that transitions can be challenging, and this is why it’s really important for families to know what are some of the ways that they can support their child during these times. 


Ben Rogers (14:25): It does feel like that, Kathryn, that, although there are challenges during these periods, it does open up a doorway to supporting some opportunities particularly with communication between parents, families, and education settings. What are some of those opportunities that children and their families can gain through this process? 


Kathryn Hopps (14:44): Indeed, there have many opportunities Ben. With transitions, we see a lot of opportunities to build resilience for parents and caregivers as well as children. It is an opportunity to experience challenges, but also to experience the success of navigating them. It’s also opportunities for example, to build new relationships. There’s even an opportunity for a fresh start that can be really beneficial for some families. It is a chance for a new identity and a reset and there’s opportunity to build new skills and draw on your strengths. 


(15:15): Transitions can also be an opportunity work in partnership with others where there may not have been that chance before. Working in partnership with educators and schools in early learning, but also with other parents and families and other support people as well. Of course, there are challenges, there’s lots of opportunity and we certainly have seen during the pandemic that there have been opportunities provided by the particular circumstances actually by the restrictions which have been very challenging, but they’ve provided other opportunities which weren’t there before. 


(15:47): For example, really encouraged families to connect with other family members online. I know for particularly grandparents who have been very used to phone contact, this concept of the video call has become such a thing that we do now and that’s going to continue in the future. 


Ben Rogers (16:07): It’s so interesting talking about this topic today, Kathryn, because it’s a topic that’s quite relevant to me. As you’ve been talking, I’ve been reflecting on our toddler’s experience of transitions recently and there’s been a lot of change around him, we moved house, there was a new baby sister and I think as I alluded to before, it cascaded in a lot of different stress and emotions and it did provide us with a really important opportunity to come together with his early childhood setting and come up with a plan. 


(16:36): Some of the things that we did were really practical to help him. One of the things that we did is we developed a social story and we tried our best to meet him with his emotions and have those conversations. Funnily enough, one of the big things that worked was actually he took his favourite paw patrol character in with him to childcare. I think these simple things and approaches are really important for us to make mention of today. What are some ideas for families about practical supports and approaches that they can implement with children around transitions? 


Kathryn Hopps (17:08): That’s really great Ben and your son being able to choose his favourite paw patrol character really comes back to one of the points that I really make about transitions is that children it’s really great if they play an active part in their transition so they’re not just happening to children. Adults seeking their views and listening to responding to their feelings is one way, but also supporting their agency around transitions. He’s made a choice there about which paw patrol character to take in with him and that can be a really good practical strategy. 


(17:41): Children choosing, we might call them actually a transition object. It could be a toy, a drink bottle, a hat, a piece of clothing that they take with them to the early learning service or school. They’re actually making that connection. They’re taking that piece of home with them to the new setting and that can assist them to feel safe and connected to home even when they are away. That’s a really great practical strategy. Your own experience also shows a practical thing you can do is reaching out to your child’s educator and seeking their advice. 


(18:12): You can just sit down to make some plans together and at that working together is really a key factor in positive transitions and coping for both children and families. You feel like you’ve done something positive, you’ve identified a challenge and then said, “Well, let’s do something about it. I’ll contact the educators and let’s make a plan.” Coming back to opportunities that have happened because of the pandemic, education settings are far more experienced now and for example, meeting with families online via Zoom. 


(18:44): It is challenging making a sit down time but if actually perhaps you didn’t have to leave your workplace or home to have the meeting, it can be much more time efficient. There is increased opportunities to be able to come together to collaborate, I think because of the pandemic. But look, we do know that families and individual family members play a really important role in supporting children’s transition. It’s not just about what happened at school or at the early learning service, we know that from research that parents and caregivers, siblings, cousins, grandparents, and extended family members support children in many ways. 


(19:21): Other practical things that families can do are around what we call familiarisation activities. Even during the pandemic, if you are in a jurisdiction where there’s limited opportunities to come on site, you can still do things like go for a walk near the school that your child will be going to next year. A lot of schools actually have a park nearby so you might be able to play in that park, you can ride past, you can walk past, you can have a conversation in the car as you’re driving past it that’s where you’ll be going to school and just opening up that opportunity to have a conversation about what’s happening. 


(19:55): As well as if there’s other more formal opportunities to visit, then they’re great as well. But for families, even beyond the pandemic, there’s always a situation where families are moving to a new town for example, not long before the start of school. Or there might be an unexpected move as well but there are things that you can do even if it’s only a few weeks or a few days before starting at a new service or school. There’s still things that you can do to support children. Engage children conversation, reading books with children about moving house or starting school, becoming a sibling, they’re opportunities to talk about what’s happening. 


(20:31): Talking about what’s you liked at school, but also when talking about school I always say it is important to be positive, but it’s also important to be realistic. Being realistic about having to attend school five days a week rather than you’re all done after the first day and just being honest that it will be fun, but not everything will be fun and there is work and there are tough days as well. Being really stick in the way that you talk about school, but generally being really positive. 


(20:57): I think the other practical approach which I think is really useful as parents and educators as well, we can draw upon some of the approaches for example from circle of security which is all about attachment relationships and parents and educators might come up with, for example, a consistent and predictable thing that they say when a child is separating from their caregivers, we might call that a script. It could be something like daddy’s going to work now and Karen will be looking after and keeping you safe. That’s the standard thing that you say when separating and the child knows to anticipate that and knows that’s the time where you’ll be leaving. This can really assist just predictable routines and rituals and secure boundaries that can assist children to feel safe. 


Ben Rogers (21:43): It’s so interesting you say that about the circle of security and the words that you can use to exchange transition points. Our childcare actually does something similar Kathryn, where he’ll say to the parent, “Are you ready to take charge and keep your child safe”, when you’re picking them up and when you’re dropping them off, they’ll say, “Well, I’m ready to take charge and I’ll keep your child safe for the day.” We found that to be really helpful for our three-year-old. But I know there’s a lot of parents and family members who are listening today, is this type of thing really useful for other ages as well? Or is this for the younger years? Is there any developmental aspects that parents need to consider when thinking about practical approaches? 


Kathryn Hopps (22:23): I think we do definitely consider the age and stage of the development of the child, but I do actually think there are some fundamentals that really hold true through the years. Those things around the child needing to feel safe, feelings of security, having positive relationships, developing a sense of belonging and connection, feeling informed and supported, things around the need for really good communication between educators and family members, including parents. 


(22:54): When I hear people talking about the transition from primary to high school, for example, which I’m not so familiar with, I hear about many of the same things that we talk about for young children’s transitions. The examples that you’ve given for example about circle of security, that attachment relationship is really important in the first three years. That’s an approach I take, but even that with the predictable script, it is appropriate for children throughout the early years really up until eight, it just might look a bit different for older children. 


(23:25): Having a secure and safe space to separate from parents and caregivers I think can be relevant from birth through to 12 and a safe space could be like in a school playground for example, children will arrive and they’re fairly independent and going into the playground, but a safe space could be that there’s lots of educators available in the playground. If they aren’t feeling so good that day, they might be able to find and go and chat with an educator. 


(23:52): As a parent, you can talk with older children even more about, okay, if you aren’t feeling okay, when you arrive at school who could you talk to? They might identify peers, they might identify educators, there just be maybe more independence around, for example, seeking help for an older child but there’s some things that are really fundamental regardless of the age. 


Ben Rogers (24:15): One of the things that I want to explore with you, Kathryn, is a parents and families own self-care during these times of transitions. We’ve talked about the pandemic, and I know from my own experience as I’ve referenced that transitions can bring up a lot of emotions in parents. I think about the mornings that my toddler is feeling a little bit wobbly around transitioning to childcare. I find myself on edge more that morning, and there’s this tightness in my chest and really feel that presence of stress as you get them to child care. 


(24:46): Then even when I’ve dropped him off and I get to work, I still notice sometimes this feeling that’s sitting with me some unpleasantness and the childcare would’ve called and said, “Hey, he’s doing fine. No worries. He’s loving it.” But as a parent, I think you carry a lot of this stress and worry often and I’m curious about what you recommend for families to do to look after themselves. 


Kathryn Hopps (25:09): Absolutely. I can really relate to your own experience as a parent it is similar to mine as well. I draw upon from research as a parent, but also that experience as well. What I have learned and would say that attending to our own emotional well-being as parents or caregivers is really important too. That’s really important for you, but also for your child as well because children do pick up on how the adults around them are feeling so if you’re really anxious or nervous about transitions, just like you said, because you’ve described your emotions there really well. 


(25:42): The feeling of taking time to notice and name it, and noticing where is in the body and then just taking some time for yourself and I say that, knowing that it’s precious little time to take that time in the morning but it can just be even just taking that deep breath and saying to yourself, “I am feeling this way, I’m just going to take this moment to calm.” Do what you need to do for your own well-being. It’s valuable for both you and your child, but I absolutely understand it can be really difficult the demands on families, but taking care of yourself can be as simple as not denying or pushing away those feelings for too long. 


(26:20): Just like I said earlier about giving children space to experience and express a range of emotion. It’s true for us as well. Ben, maybe not in the morning as you’re getting ready, but taking the time later to talk to someone that you trust about how you’re feeling and sharing those feelings with other adults who might be involved in the same transition, it can be really helpful. I think it’s also important to know that there is a level of grief associated with transitions. 


(26:48): There are gains and some really great and exciting things that happen, but there are losses too and that’s important to recognise that those are normal feelings. Looking after yourself can just be about taking that moment to pause and it could be organising or it could be being very intentional about it’d be really great to talk to someone about how I’m feeling and sharing that which can be just really beneficial. When you do seek connections with others as well, this is something you can do for yourself. 


(27:14): I think this has really been highlighted in the pandemic that important of connection and staying connected with others because we know it’s a pretty protective factor for mental health. Building your support network, but also things like knowing what things are helpful to you when you are feeling a little bit upset, a little bit anxious, a little bit nervous, the type feeling in your chest. If that helpful thing is talking to others, but it could be other things. It could be exercise, writing it down, being out in nature. If you’re into mindfulness, doing a little bit of mindfulness. 


(27:47): Having a bit of a self-care plan for yourself around transitions, I think can really be helpful. We often think about the supporting children and we’re really focused on that. Actually having a bit of a transition plan for ourselves can be good as well and look, taking care of yourself can also just be being kind to yourself. Giving yourself time to adjust, knowing that transitions are a family affair, it’s a transition for you as well. There’s some really big life ones becoming a parent of a school student. It’s a significant one. 


(28:16): I think the other thing that’s really helpful, Ben, and I know you mentioned wobbly moments. Well, it’s actually taken the time to celebrate the non-wobbly moments when things might go well. You might have a drop off at an early learning service. Actually, it went well or it went better than last time. Taking the time to acknowledge and maybe even celebrate that, have a little bit of fun because otherwise our brains might focus on, “Oh, there’s been three really wobbly drop offs this week and they were really upsetting.” 


(28:46): It’s like, “oh”, taking the time to notice what did you do well this time? Or a little bit of growth and improvement. I actually think for transitions, taking that time to celebrate. Creating your own traditions around the first day of each year, the first day of school each year, first day of early learning. Create your own to have that bit of fun and celebrate and acknowledge the changes and the significant of some of the transitions can be helpful for ourselves as well. 


Ben Rogers (29:12): Thanks Kathryn. We talked about the networks around a child and family that we can tap into and it can be difficult for families to know when there’s a need for more professional supports or services and what things could families be looking out for that might say, “Hey, look, it might be worth me connecting with another professional”, and what types of professionals can support families with transitions? 


Kathryn Hopps (29:38): It’s a great question, Ben. I think it’s both important to know what to expect, it’s typical and what to look out for as well. If we go back to, we talked about it maybe without naming it, difficulties like separation anxiety. Anxiety experience by children when separating from their primary carers during transitions. Look, this is actually regarded as a normal and a healthy response to a degree. It actually indicates a secure attachment to parents for young children and we even know the peak of this happens around the same time that children they’re growing cognitive development. 


(30:16): Between the ages of eight and 15 months, it’s very common and it’s very healthy and typical for children to have an amount of separation anxiety when leaving their primary carers. It’s also relatively normal throughout early childhood but how do we know when it’s from something typical and expected to happen? Before I go into that, I think it’s also very understandable if children find transitions extra challenging because of their experiences of the pandemic. This is why it’s a good idea to have plans for our family, plans for ourself plans, for their child, about who you might reach out to if you are worried. 


(30:55): I think things like whenever I’m talking about how do we know when it’s time to reach out for extra support? It can be around how severe the impact is on the child and the family as well. Things like how long has this been going on for and is it happening in just one environment? Is it happening across many? Is it happening when the child is moving from home to school? Is it also happening in that transition from a school to afterschool care service? Is it also happening when the child’s been cared for by grandparents or extended family members? 


(31:31): Is it also happening at soccer training as well? If it’s happening just in one, then we might be able to have a little bit more of a look at what’s happening one environment, but maybe if it’s happening across many of this indicates well, might be time to talk to some other professionals. For example, with daily separations for young children they might initially be upset, but if they’re able to be settled by an educator and if they can co-regulate their emotions with an educator or another adult, returning to that state of calm and they’re soon off playing and engaging with other children or exploring their environment, this shows that they can regulate their emotions with the support of an adult and feel safe. 


(32:10): It’s not such as concern as a child who continues to need one-on-one support for a long period and those feelings really impact on their capacity to play, to learn, to develop relationships, maybe even eat and sleep where there might also be other difficulties or concerns for that impact on their learning well-being and development. But I would say if you are worried, I wouldn’t get too involved in, how severe is it? If it’s upsetting you and if you can see the impact on the child it’s always good to talk to someone about it. 


(32:44): Some of the first people, the easiest to access, if it is around an education setting reaching out to the educator and say, “Look, can we have a sit-down conversation? A bit worried about how our transitions are going.” It’s a really good one. Also, it’s really good to always know that you can talk to your GP. As a bit of a first protocol, who can have a conversation with you but also suggest to you who else you might go and talk to. There’s also maternal child and health nurses, maternal family health nurses, whatever they’re called in your particular jurisdiction who you might be able to talk to about this as well. 


(33:20): But I think Ben, it’s also important to know because it can be really hard to prioritise making that appointment to see someone, there’s also help lines like a parent line available in many States and territories with someone at the end of the line you can talk to as well. Sometimes just talking about it, you might come up with some of your own strategies and what you’re going to do next as well. 


Ben Rogers (33:42): That’s really interesting Kathryn thinking about the support services available and the various professionals that families can link in with. You sit on the national and international Transition Network which have produced a lot of different resources and recommendations for families. What is the research telling us at the moment about children as families navigate transitions? 


Kathryn Hopps (34:05): Thanks Ben. We’ve got actually quite a bit of research now where children have been actively involved in that research. I’ve been involved in quite a few studies myself where I have talked to children and that consistent theme that comes up is around the importance of friends. Continuity in their friendships and being able to make friends. It’s certainly helpful if your child is starting for example, school, if they’ve got friends also going to the same school. But if not, that’s okay. 


(34:35): But those skills and confidence in making friends is really important too. As parents, we might be able to point out to children in the lead up to transitions about how they make friends, “I saw you making friends to get today at the park. You went up to someone and you asked them then what their name was and then you told them theirs and then you started playing together.” It’s just noticing the things that children do in their everyday lives and putting that out to them and really building their confidence that, you’re actually really good at making friends. 


(35:04): How often do children tell us about importance around learning rules, particularly for around primary school-aged children knowing what the rules and expectations are? As a parent, those early conversations, when a child starts at school or early learning can be about, well, what are the rules for this place? Those rules can be different between home and school of course and children are aware of these rules can navigate them quite well, but it is particularly interesting to them. 


(35:29): It might be something that we engage in conversation with them about it. Some of the research around starting school is really interesting that children would like, for example, their new educators to know what they already know and can do. Their interests and strengths can be carried through. As a parent, if you have an opportunity just share with your school or your early learning service, might be in an enrolment interview or might be through an about me form, don’t be afraid to share what your child already knows and can do because that’s important to your child. 


(36:05): You might even ask them what it is that they’d like to share with their new educators. That can be carried on into that setting so that can provide that bit of continuity, but also recognise that children are moving between settings, but they come with lots of knowledge and skills and interests already. I think the main thing to take away from all the research is really evident that children have a lot to say about transitions if we ask them, and if we listen when they speak or draw or paint or otherwise communicate their thoughts about transitions, they can really provide us with really important insights into their feelings, their worries, their questions, what they’re looking forward to. Just having those conversations with children, they really do have a lot to say if we take the time to ask and to listen and respond to what they’re saying. 


Ben Rogers (36:47): Kathryn, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a really interesting and insightful discussion on this important topic of transitions. 


Kathryn Hopps (36:56): Thanks so much, Ben. It was a pleasure. 


Narrator (36:59): Visit our website at to access a range of resources to assist your practise. Brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health led by Emerging Minds. The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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