Quick Exit

Supporting the Transitions to and From Work

Topics: Family

Transitions or changes are associated with movements to, from, and within the home throughout the day. Common transitions for couples/families include leaving for work or coming home, mealtimes, and getting ready for bed. The shift from one place or role to another can be stressful and it can be helpful to learn effective ways to manage transitions. For PSP families, the transitions from work to home and home to work can be especially challenging due to the nature of PSP work. Shift changes and absences require adjustments in roles and routines.

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Couples can support each other by having conversations to better understand each other’s expectations and needs when transitioning from work to home and home to work. Discussing what each partner finds helpful, especially on challenging days, allows couples to work together to negotiate a plan to support transitions. Think about how you typically navigate transition times together. The following skill building exercises will help you make a plan to support your transition times.

Discussion about Transition Times

Together, discuss the following questions:

  • What are the transition times in our family?
  • What can we do together to make transitions smoother?
  • How can we share our feelings and needs on the days when we need more time before re-engaging with family?
  • How can we negotiate transition times on challenging days (including setting an end point to the transition time)?
  • How can we support one another during this time?
Communicating Level of Distress

It can be helpful to communicate your level of distress during transition times. The following steps outline skills that allow for effective communication and planning:

  • Awareness:

Take a moment to focus on how you are feeling during transition times.

For example: Is there tension in your body? Are you able to focus? How reactive are you? etc.

  • Communication:

Some people find it helpful to communicate by rating the level of distress on a scale of 1 (no distress) to 10 (very high distress). Others come up with a brief way to communicate a high level of distress.

For example: Saying, “I’ve had a bad shift, I’m going to come home and give you a hug, but then I’m going to need some time alone to unwind.”

  • Planning Ahead:

Together, negotiate a plan for what transition times will look like when a high level of distress has been communicated.

For example: A PSP family member or SSO might put an object on the kitchen table (upside down coffee cup) as a non-verbal cue that the day has been difficult, and they need some time to recover (e.g., put the headphones on and listen to music or go for a run).

References for this page (click to expand)

Carleton, R. N., Afifi, T., Taillieu, T., Turner, S., Mason, J., Ricciardelli, R., McCreary, D., Vaughan, A., Anderson, G. S., Krakauer, R., Donnelly, E. A., Camp II, R., Groll, D., Cramm, H., MacPhee, R., & Griffiths, C. (2020). Assessing the relative impact of diverse stressors among public safety personnel. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(4), 1234. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17041234  

McElheran, M., & Stelnicki, A. M. (2021). Functional disconnection and reconnection: An alternative strategy to stoicism in public safety personnel. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2020.1869399  

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