Supporting families facing transitions
Part of being supportive community around parents and carers is to help them through periods of change.
Whether the change is positive or negative, expected or unexpected, these can be periods that children find unsettling and most families will appreciate extra support. Depending on your relationship with them and the resources you have available, there may be opportunities to support them practically and pastorally. Remember to make use of the whole body of Christ and get others involved in providing help and support – don’t fall into the trap of feeling you need to do it all yourself.
Times of transition can also provide powerful opportunities for a parent to coach a child how to approach other changes and transitions with God as they encounter them throughout their life. We have an article for them, Transitions, that you can direct them to. If you have a number of parents who are facing the same transition, for example children starting school, you could create a springboard resource (link) to help them to do this.
Regardless of what the transition is, one of the ways you can help them the most is by being available to listen and be a help desk for them. Every family and situation is unique and so different questions, problems and ideas will arise. We need to be prepared to listen and work with each family, not assume the same things will help everybody.
Care for the Family have a series of free to download and use ‘Top Tips‘ leaflets, covering many aspects of family life, some of which might be helpful for families facing change.
Here are a few more specific ideas and resources to get you started on how to support families through some of the most common transitions:
Starting primary school
Research suggests that almost three quarters (71%) of parents were anxious about their child starting school for the first time so this is an important time to be offering them support.
- You could direct them to websites such as PACEY and BBC Bitesize which have lots of resources for preparing parents and children. Scripture Union has a resource called It’s Your Next Step which some parents may also find helpful.
- In church, you might like to include something as part of a Sunday service or at the end of a summer holiday club where you pray for kids and families and teach them a skill to help them connect with God as they start school. There are some ideas around a ‘Blessings of the backpacks’ here.
- The first drop off can be an emotional time for parents. Could you offer a space for people to come after they have dropped their children off on the first day, for coffee, cakes and a friendly face? Perhaps you could partner with a local school to provide this.
Starting secondary school
If many of the young people attend the same secondary school, could you buddy them up beforehand with someone who is already there? Think about when you move your year 6s up to the youth group: would it help them to get to know some of the older youth before they go to secondary school?
Leaving home / Starting uni
One of parents’ big concerns is that their teenager won’t find a community and church to join at uni. Fusion offer a student link up service, aimed at connecting students and churches, so students can get connected before they go. For an episode of the Parenting for Faith podcast we interviewed Pippa Elmes from Fusion on Preparing our Teens for University.
In episode 44 of the the Parenting for Faith podcast we interviewed Crystal Chiang. She explains a free resource called onmyteam.org which encourages students heading off to uni to think through some people they would like to ask to be ‘on their team’ and shows them how to do that.
And our article How can my church support those heading off to university this Autumn? supports all youth leaders and others in church context who want to wrap around their university students as they leave.
New family members – becoming a blended family
There is a list of books which might be helpful for blended families here.
Care for the Family has some articles which share stories of blended families.
New family members – new baby
Having a baby is perhaps one of the biggest transitions a family can face. Other parents in your congregation will be a great source of advice and support for soon-to-be parents, and there’s lots you can do to provide practical support by way of meals, for example. This may be a helpful book for a younger child to prepare them for a new sibling.
In episode 23 of our podcast, a mum shared how she helped her toddler prepare for a new brother or sister; you can listen to it here.
Care for the Family have some helpful articles for adjusting to a new baby here.
This is also a good time to review how baby-friendly your church is and see if there are any small changes that you could make, to make it easier for families with babies to come to church.
This is a great opportunity to offer practical support whether that’s with childcare, help packing or providing meals for moving day and over the coming couple of weeks.
If you know of other resources, websites or ideas that have been helpful to you, do let us know as we’d love to add them to this list.