Last week I wrote a post about how to deal with change, as adults. Recently, my children have had to deal with some pretty large changes, especially for only being 5 and 3. I’m not sure we handled it with complete grace, in fact, I think we usually just went with it. We are still learning as we go, even 5 years into this parenting thing. While writing my post last week, I realized if change can have such a debilitating effect on adults then imagine what it could do for children. Here is a list of 10 ways to help your children deal with change.
10 Ways to Help your Children Deal with Change
Communication is the key to dealing with anything in life when it comes to difficult situations or building/sustaining relationships. So this first tip shouldn’t come as a surprise. You need to keep the communication flowing and strong. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes parents (myself included) forget how important it is to really talk to your kids about what is going on in their lives.
It is very important not to ignore the changes in your children’s lives or leave it up to them to handle on their own. Acknowledgment is huge. Let them know you understand how difficult it is. Share some personal stories about when you were a kid and had to deal with large changes.
2. Really, truly listen
Being a good communicator goes hand in hand with being a good listener. Really, truly listen to your children. It is so important to let your children know you are there for them. This reminder can help them feel more secure in their feelings.
Sometimes it can take children time to open up. They are still learning relationship skills. What has personally worked for me is mirroring conversation. When my oldest saw that I was will to share with him about my feelings he started opening up more. Also try to remember to make eye contact. Making eye contact shows your child you really care about what they have to say.
3. Offer choices (if possible)
Just like adults, sometimes children will act out during times of change because they feel like they have no control. Allowing your children to feel like they have more control can help with this. If you are able to offer choices, it can have a great impact on helping your children feel more in control.
According to Early Childhood News, “giving children choices throughout the day is beneficial, even crucial to their development.” You can do the same for your children at home, especially at times where they need to feel in control,
Some examples are:
- Which shirt would you like to wear today?
- Which book would you like to read tonight?
- Do you want to color or play with your blocks?
Keep as close to the same routine as you can. Children thrive on consistency. This goes back to what I said before that children do not like feeling like they are out of control. Keeping a routine can help with feeling out of control and allows children to feel secure because they know what is coming.
However, in a time of change, especially huge changes like divorce or loss of a loved one, I know it can be difficult to keep up with an exact routine. If you can keep bedtime the same and keep the same nighttime routine then these are things that will help your children remain grounded in the craziness that is life.
5. Let them feel
The truth of the matter is we all have emotions and we all handle situations differently and with different emotions. We can’t expect our children to not cry or be cranky when life is throwing them curveballs. Adults have bad, cranky days and I have been known to run and hide in the bathroom for a good cry every now and then. So we shouldn’t expect anything less or different from our children.
6. Let them help you create a new “normal”
Let your children help you create a new “normal.” This concept goes back to the choices and aiding your children in feeling a sense of independence and control. Maybe you could allow your child to pick a night of the week that will be “pizza night!” You could do a craft day, theme day, or water park day to name a few. The important thing is to create new, fun opportunities for them to look forward to, especially while they are getting used to the change in their lives.
7. Give a warning (if possible)
No one can really predict how they will feel about something until they are actually in the midst of it, but this does allow them to feel somewhat in control of what is coming. Repetition of this will be important, especially for younger children. I would continue to remind them until the change has occurred, and then still continue to remind them that everything will be ok.
If the change is something that you know is coming, give your children a little heads up. I know that not all changes come with a flashing red light, but some do and as parents, we should take advantages of those times. You can use this opportunity to prepare them for what is coming and to talk through different scenarios and emotions that they might experience.
8. Help them focus on the positive
This can be crucial for preparing them for a happy, positive future, even as they get older. I try to take stock in the good things in life at least once a week, if not more. Sometimes when you are going through a rough time it is easy to get tunnel vision and only see all the bad. However, it is important to remember the good that is still present in your life.
Our children look to us to make the decision on how they will react to certain situations. So if we are reacting harshly to a certain situation, then you can bet our children will do the same. This is where parenting can sometimes be difficult. Even though we might be having a difficult time, we must put a strong foot forward for our children. Show your children positive and uplifting behavior and this will make it easier on them to mirror that behavior. Honestly, that age-old saying about children learning more from what we DO, instead of what we say, is so very, very true.
9. Be aware that coping can take time
Try not to rush things. Adults don’t have specific timelines for dealing with change, so we shouldn’t put limits on our children either. We all deal with change and stress differently. You want them to learn how to process their emotions so give them the time to figure it all out.
10. Follow your Mama (and Daddy) gut
Above all else, like so many things in parenting, follow your Mama (and Daddy) gut! I do believe we need to give our children time to process. However, if your instinct is telling you that there is more to it, then follow your gut. Seeking outside advice/help is not a bad thing. In fact, this can show your children another healthy way of coping. It shows your children that it is ok to admit when you need a little extra help.
In closing, these 10 ways to help your children deal with change are just an outline. However, the fact of the matter is you know your children better than anyone. Find what works best for you and your child. And, above all else, when in doubt a hug is always a good route to take.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31