By Staci Chambers, MSW – August 4, 2020 –
“Why are we moving to a new house?” “Why did one of my parents move away?” “Why are things so different at school?” “When can I see Grandma?” “How will I make new friends?” “What happens after we die?”
Change happens in every life. Whether it’s a change we can anticipate—like entering middle school or starting a job we’ve been hired for, or a change we didn’t see coming—like a death in the family or COVID-19, change is always a challenge. As adults, we have learned how to rationalize and process those major life-changing events. But children have a less-developed mindset, and they need help navigating change.
You may have heard the saying, “You can’t control the winds, but you can adjust the sails.” As more experienced sailors in the sea changes of life, parents and other adults can offer instruction, attention and care to our kids as they to cope with change.
Here are some specific coping strategies:
- Talk with your child and acknowledge that it is normal for them to be experiencing a variety of emotions regarding the recent changes. Car rides, meal times, and bedtime are often good moments to initiate conversation.
- Allow them to participate in some small decision-making within the family. This allows them to feel they have some control over things in their life. You may even encourage them to choose new rituals or traditions for your family to practice together.
- Be consistent in new daily routines. (If you don’t have a daily routine, create one!) Structure throughout their day allows a child to feel more secure and safe. Even just a few set elements of routine can create calm and trust.
- Stay positive regarding the recent changes. Even though change is sometimes initiated by negative circumstances, it is important to try to focus on the positive aspects. In the morning over breakfast and at night before bed, help your child think of three positive things they are grateful for.
- Be patient with them. Allow them the time they need to adjust to the changes.
There are a lot of benefits that can come with navigating change. It is just a matter of finding an appropriate way of coping with the stressors that accompany the transition. Being a loving, attentive source of support for your child is the best thing you can do to help them successfully “adjust the sails”—and you may even find that it strengthens your family as a whole.