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  • Writer's pictureAmba Brown

What is Positive Transitioning? (+ 5 Free PDF Resources to Support Youth Through Times of Change)

Inside pages - A guide to starting high school with a smile

What is positive transitioning and what is it we're hoping to achieve?

Our goal is to positively prepare and support youth through their expected life transitions. Being distinct from unexpected life transitions such as a death, moving or parents separating.

With these expected life transitions we know that at some point every child will navigate the major transitions of starting school, starting high school and finishing school.

It’s in these times of change where students can feel out of their comfort zones, experience anxiety or fear around the unknowns or their abilities to cope.

When these transitions are a positive, happy experience, it can become the foundation of many years of academic and social future success. It has also been found to be vital to the development of students' self-esteem and academic self-competence as well as preventative of potential anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, depression and suicide.

As educators and parents, you have a very important role to play in supporting the child. They will look to you for information and reassurance about this exciting time. In the months leading up to the change it’s critical that we are mindful around planning the transitions, by understanding how the child feels and encouraging future optimistic thinking.

Some common experiences a child may present are anxiety, which can be supported by normalising and empathising with how they feel and sharing stories and experiences ourselves.

Inside pages - Finding Your Path

Other common experiences are worries about the unknown, where we can share insightful information about how it will be.

Now, there are the things they will worry about that they can change – and steps can be taken to overcome these things. Then, there will be the things they can’t change – and acceptance can be taught to manage this. For example, the one thing they can always change is being mindful and aware around the things that make them happy. We’ll get into some exercises a bit later on.

But, it’s not only the students who are effected through these times of change. These changes can be both exciting and worrying for the students families and teachers. Teachers and parents commonly report being anxious about the wellbeing of students during their transitions. Parents also have to adjust to the various changes when establishing their child into a new school setting.

Lana Lang has a beautiful quote on change where she says,

“Life is about change. Sometimes it's painful. Sometimes it's beautiful. But most of the time, it's both."

The one thing we know for sure is it’s normal for transitions to bring with them a mixed bag of emotions - for everyone involved. For some these heightened emotions may take longer to subside than others, as the adjustment phase is different for everyone. Like any new beginning, there may be a level of sadness around leaving the past behind, anxiety around the many unknowns and the excitement of the future. Combined together it can lead to a roller coaster of emotions.

Learn more about Positive Transitioning.

Happy change

Free PDF Activities to Support the times of Change:

  • Starting school:

Promoting Optimism: Positive future expectations are found to be linked with enhanced social and emotional adjustment to school (Wyman, Cowen, Work & Kerley, 1993).

In this simple positive transitioning intervention, parents can facilitate positive conversations with their children before starting school. DOWNLOAD PDF

  • Starting high school:

Building Achievement: Schools that implement an extensive transition process can overcome transitional setbacks and set them on a trajectory for long-term success.

This positive transitioning intervention is useful for year 6 students preparing for high school life. DOWNLOAD PDF

  • Finishing School:

Building Meaning: This final transition is becoming increasingly complicated, with the options being less structured and new career paths popping up all the time - with 65% of students expected to work in jobs that don’t yet exist (Stillman, 2017).

This positive transitioning intervention is an easy to use worksheet for high school students considering their paths after school. Based on the message delivered in Amba's TEDx Talk. DOWNLOAD PDF

  • All transitions:

Emotional awareness activity: Taking a moment to be aware of our feelings, thoughts and actions is instrumental in managing the various emotions that come with change. Research has proven this increases social skills and promotes mental and general well-being in youth (Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun, & Fan, 2017).

Use this exercise for all transitions. Colour in how you are feeling now. Taken from page 23 of Finding Your Path - A guide to starting high school with a smile. DOWNLOAD PDF

Positive emotion activity: Studies have shown (Fredrickson and Branigan, 2005) the impact of a positive emotional state on supporting our ability and willingness to adapt when uncertainty is increased. They found that a positive emotional state is linked to increased social behaviour, exploration and curiosity.

Use this exercise for all transitions. Get creative and use the space to flesh out the things that make you happy. Taken from page 128 of Finding Your Path - A guide to starting high school with a smile. DOWNLOAD PDF

I hope you enjoy these resources!

For any questions or feedback feel free to reach out here.

For more tools to support transitioning students, please see our resource page.


Baumeister, R., Vohs, K., & Oettingen, G. (2016). Pragmatic prospection: How and why people think about the future. Review Of General Psychology, 20(1), 3-16.

Benson, P. L. 1997. All kids are our kids: What communities must do to raise caring and responsible children and adolescents. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cardemil, E., Reivich, K., Beevers, C., Seligman, M., & James, J. (2007). The prevention of depressive symptoms in low-income, minority children: Two-year follow-up. Behaviour Research And Therapy, 45(2), 313-327.

Duckworth, A., Peterson, C., Matthews, M., & Kelly, D. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101.

Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What Good Are Positive Emotions? Review of General Psychology : Journal of Division 1, of the American Psychological Association, 2(3), 300–319.

Fredrickson, B. L., & Branigan, C. (2005). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Cognition & Emotion, 19(3), 313–332.

Gable, Shelly L., Haidt, Jonathan, What (and Why) Is Positive Psychology? (PDF),

Gollwitzer, P., & Kinney, R. (1989). Effects of deliberative and implemental mind-sets on illusionof control. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 56(4), 531-542.

Kern, M. L., & Friedman, H. S. (2008). Early educational milestones as predictors of lifelong academic achievement, midlife adjustment, and longevity. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30(4), 419–430.

Milburn, C. (2018). Preparing kindergarten children for school. Essential Kids.

Pittman, K. J. & Wright, M. (1991). Bridging the Gap: A Rationale for Enhancing the Role of Community Organizations in Promoting Youth Development. Washington, DC: Center for Youth Development and Policy Research.

Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Stillman, D., & Stillman, J. (2017). Gen Z @ work. HarperCollins.

World Health Organization. Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice (Summary Report) Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004.

Wyman, P., Cowen, E., Work, W., & Kerley, J. (1993). The role of children's future expectations in self-system functioning and adjustment to life stress: A prospective study of urban at-risk children. Development And Psychopathology, 5(04), 649.

Zhou, K., Liu, Q., Niu, G., Sun, X., & Fan, C. (2017). Bullying victimization and depression in Chinese children: A moderated mediation model of resilience and mindfulness. Personality and Individual Defferences,104, 137-142

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