Someone wise once said, “The only thing in life that is certain is change.” Isn’t that the truth? As hard as we try to maintain predictable routines and regularity, unforeseen circumstances can lead us to face change whether we’re ready for it or not.
For adults and children alike, the ability to adapt to life’s inevitable changes is an invaluable skill to have. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill that comes naturally to many of us, especially young children. As a licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist, a lot of my work focuses on helping children and their parents work through the difficulties of major life changes.
Whether it’s moving to a new house, changing schools, welcoming a new baby into the family or going through a divorce or death of a relative, change can be scary for your little one. Here are some parenting tips for how you can help any transition go more smoothly for your child:
- Be extra patient. It’s important to remember that a child’s developmental needs and capacity to accept change are much different than an adult’s. Young children do not have the cognitive ability to process abstract concepts, so patience on your part goes a long way to ease your child through a major change.
- If possible, prepare your child for the change to come. Explain to him what will soon be different, using age-appropriate language and simple, concrete examples. If he is starting a new school, you might say, “You will be going to a new school where you will meet new friends and have a new teacher. I will walk you in and help you find your cubby. Together we will say hello to your new teacher and new friends.”
- Reassure your child of what will be familiar. Using the same example as above, you might say, “I will pack your lunch in your same teddy bear lunch box, you will still have nap time on a cot and you will have snack time and playground time, just like you did at your other school.”
- Remember that regressive behavior is normal during times of change. When your child’s regular routine or surroundings change, you might see her move backward with regressive behaviors, like wetting her pants despite being potty-trained, asking for her bottle when she’s been drinking from sippy cups or needing more cuddles than usual. Remember to be patient, as this is normal when a child is moving through a change.
- Maintain routines as much as possible. Try to keep your child’s eating and sleeping routines regular and predictable. This will help keep his natural rhythms from being disrupted, which will aid in his ability to adapt to the other changes in his life.
Though times of transition may never be easy, these practices will help your child feel more secure through life’s many changes. You can also check out this list of books to read together that can help children accept change.
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