Transitions: a time of change
What is a transition?
The start of the year often involves change, especially for teenagers and young adults.
These changes might be:
- moving from primary school to high school
- moving from high school to university
- starting full time work
- moving out of home into your own place or a share house
These important events are about moving on, and are often called transitions. Many significant transitions occur during teenage and early adult years, although people of all ages go through them. Transitions are a normal part of life and are a part of growing and developing.
Other transitions that young people often call Kids Helpline about include:
- Going through puberty
- Family changes
- Changing countries
- Changing identities and or gender
- Coming out
- Starting a partner relationship
- Becoming a parent
How do transitions feel?
Transitions can be exciting and enjoyable, and they can also be quite stressful. Do you remember how it felt when you first started school or when you finished primary school and moved on to high school? It probably felt exciting and scary at the same time.
You probably left behind what was known and familiar and started something new and different. It's also very likely that you had to get used to new surroundings, new friends and new teachers. You may also have experienced feelings of loss as you left behind some old friends and familiar faces.
Below are some examples of big changes that happen for young people, and how you might feel as you go through them.
Finishing high school
One of the big transitions for young people is finishing high school. Graduating from high school can be a very emotional experience and yet at the same time may feel as though it's not really happening, or is happening too fast!
There may be tears, handshakes or hugs when it comes time to say goodbye to ‘school’ and the people who have shared some very significant years of your life. Some people may feel quite sad and nostalgic, while others may feel excitement and anticipation. Many young people's feelings fit somewhere in between these two extremes and can include:
- relief to have finally ‘got there’
- pride about achievements
- regret over what may not have been accomplished
Transitions and puberty
Physical transitions such as puberty happen at different times for different people and can create a feeling of being left out or ‘different’ to others. Early puberty can mean looking like and being treated as an adult while still feeling the same inside. The opposite can also happen if an individual develops later than others in their peer group.
Transitions and growing up
People often experience a sense of loss when moving from childhood towards adult responsibilities. While ‘growing up’ is something that is often publically celebrated with events such as 21st birthday parties and school formals, what you leave behind is often not recognised or talked about.
Negotiating transitions can create added stresses in young people's lives. As you get older your responsibilities and what is expected of you will change. For example:
- when you finish school you might be expected to know what you want to do with your life
- you may be expected to learn how to take charge of your own needs and make your own way
- you may be expected to get married, have children and participate in family events
Social expectations like these will vary between cultures and families, but they are all big decisions and not always easy to make. It makes sense then, that you may feel nervous and apprehensive about transitions because they are unknown experiences. You may have to:
- learn new ways of doing things
- understand new and often intense feelings and emotions
- start to see the world in a whole new way
You may feel nervous or apprehensive about small things like making your first medical appointment without your parents, or bigger things such as going to University or starting a job.
Good things about transitions
One of the good things about transitions is they lead to growth and increased opportunities. An example of this is the increased freedom that comes with growing up. Sometimes it's easy not to notice these positives until you look back. Where are you now and where have you come from?
Working through a transition from the old to the new can also lead to increased confidence and experience. Experience and learning gives people more skills to manage their lives and make choices. Think about the things you will eventually take for granted as you grow older, such as getting a driver's licence, earning an income, going to parties, voting and creating a home.
So what helps to manage transitions?
As you move through a transition, sometimes it can help to remember previous experiences and ask yourself "How did I manage at that time and how did things turn out? When and how did the ‘change’ just become a normal part of life?"
It can also help to acknowledge there are a wide variety of feelings that accompany change and to accept these feelings and understand that you may act differently for a while. It is very normal to have these feelings and as the unfamiliar becomes the ‘new normal’ you will find they become less intense and gradually pass. It can be helpful to think of what usually helps you to deal with these kinds of feelings and use these things to get through this time.
Young people often call Kids Helpline when they are going through transitions, and they tell us about things that help them cope with transitions and times of change. These might be useful ideas for you too, and include:
- Writing in a journal or diary
- Talking to someone
- Being creative
- Getting involved with others with similar interests
- Staying in touch with old friends
- Positive self talk
- Setting goals
If you are going through a transition or change in your life that you'd like to talk to someone about, you can call Kids Helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 55 1800.
Published: 5 January 2010