5 Ways of Helping Children Cope With Change In Life

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a parent helping children cope with change and worry

You all know that kids face drastic changes as they grow. As parents, are you helping children cope with change in their lives? Do you think it’s easy for children to deal with them?

I’m sure when you were kids, like many others; you also found it tough to cope with the changes in life.

Most probably, your parents must have taught you how to deal with them, which maybe even helped you find purpose in your life.

This post is all about helping children cope with change that they come across in their life, and I’m sure you all can relate and contribute to it.

Change in a Child’s Life

Change is inevitable and important for growth. But it can be stressful for everyone – including your children. Nothing remains the same, which is good in a way, but it can be challenging at times.

The word ‘change’ means to make or become different.

So, when you talk of ‘cope with change’ you mean to adjust to something different happening than the usual, which requires your abilities to handle those differences.

Change for children can be tough as it can challenge their sense of security, safety, and predictability within their world.

Just like you and me, change can be difficult at times for children too. That’s because you’re required to step out of your comfort zone or familiar world, into the unexpected.

Children need consistency; they need a routine, reliability, and are comfortable with the known in their lives. Change offers none of these!

Being parents and caretakers, you can help children cope with change in their life, by providing them a sense of safety and assurance like no one else.

“Parents learn a lot from their children about coping with life.” ~ Muriel Spark

Any kind of change, whether good or bad, brings with it some degree of stress in everyone’s life, and children are no exception.

The way younger kids cope with change will be demonstrated by the way they behave, rather than by what they speak.

Examples of Change Children Face

The changes that your child may have to face could be many, but I’m just listing a few of them here-

  • A friend moving away.
  • New teacher or new friends.
  • Hospital stay.
  • Shifting of house.
  • Recent death in the family.
  • Separation or divorce of parents.
  • Joining school after long or even starting preschool.
  • Some illness.
  • A new baby in the family.
  • Meeting new people.
  • A parent taking a new job or losing a job.
  • Parent making new childcare arrangements, and adjusting to new nannies or caregivers.
  • Different financial circumstances.
  • Adopting a different routine or schedule.
  • Abandoning bad habits or picking-up good habits.
  • Shifting to a new place – cultural change, or even visiting a new place with new settings.

Change that might seem insignificant to you might not be such to your children. It may have its impact on kids, especially on those who are more sensitive to change.

Some kids react more strongly to change than others because of their temperament. I remember my younger one having a tough time coping with change too.

If I changed the layout of her room, which was a small thing for me, she would find it tough getting used to the new room layout. She was disturbed and unsettled for a few hours till I explained things to her.

“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.” ~ Earvin “Magic” Johnson

Signs of Difficulty in Coping with Change Among Children

As parents, you need to find ways of helping children cope with change that they might find a problem with.

Sometimes the behavior of children indicates that they are finding it hard to cope with the changes. Look out for signs like –

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Become withdrawn.
  • Anxious, clingy, exhibit anger or aggressive behavior.
  • Complain of headaches, stomach pains, or over sensitive to minor scrapes.
  • Lose interest in things that earlier interested them.
  • Have a tough time concentrating at school.
  • Might not listen to what they’re told, attention seeking, and throw tantrums.

mother helping her child to learn to cope

How can you as parents and caretakers help? Are you really helping children cope with changes they face in their lives? If you are – it’s wonderful, or else I hope these ways help you.

Ways of Helping Children Cope With Change

Learning to cope with change is a skill that will help your children all through their life.

According to research, children learn to cope with the changing ups and downs of life by developing resilience. They develop resilience when they have parents to listen and guide them.

They feel good about themselves, have the ability to focus, have good social skills, and sense of independence.

Teach your children how to develop resilience so that they are able to face tough situations and then bounce back later. But how do they learn resilience? They do so apparently by watching us.

“Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them.” ~ Jonas Salk

Studies show that children as young as two years old copy the coping, thinking style, and stress-management techniques of adults around them.

They sense when their parents are tensed and tend to copy that too – so be careful. Don’t show your worry or tensions in-front of your kids, unless you can explain them about it, and they can understand.

Here are a few ways of helping children cope with change, and these coping strategies will help them to deal with an ever-changing world.

1- Bond with your children and be a role model

What you can do as parents is build a close relationship with your children by talking openly about everything with them, and simply being there for them.

Children feel more secure when they know they have parents or at least one parent to turn to, even when major changes in life take place.

Let your children know of the change in life you have undergone as an example, and how you managed them. Your examples are a way of helping children cope with change in their life.

You can tell them what you might have done differently, which might have helped. Or tell them about the changes within the other family members and how they changed with circumstances.

Grandparents can share their stories about the adversities they’ve faced, and how they overcame it all.

Remember, children raised with unconditional love and belonging don’t portray destructive behaviors when faced with difficulties in life.

Reassure your children that no matter what happens, they can always count on you and their family for support and understanding.

Be a good role model because nothing you say is as important as what your children see you do.

If you have an optimistic attitude and maintain your self-control during stressful situations, they will follow you and do the same.

2- Maintain routines

Children love to follow a routine, because they are creatures of habit. Anything away from that disturbs them.

From the time they are infants, to their teenage years – they feel best when they are able to predict things.

They feel secure when they know what’s chalked out for the day, or what they have to do next. They like to know how their parents will behave or react, and what will happen from day to day.

So, if you and your child are undergoing a period of change, it helps if you can keep most of your child’s routine the same.

3- Value time

Young children don’t understand the concept of time, thus you need to provide them with simple strategies to measure time.

You can use an alarm clock or kitchen timers for activity transitions, clean up times, and morning rituals. Let your kids place a calendar centrally and help them keep track of birthday, holidays, and vacations.

Warn your kids verbally or set countdowns for when they must leave something that they are enjoying. Like you could say that, “I’m going to switch off the TV in 5 minutes as its dinner time.”

However, if they are going through an unpleasant experience, help them understand that this too shall pass and it won’t last forever. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and point out the positives.

4- Prepare children for what may happen and be honest

Another way of helping children cope with change is when you voice your plans in a reassuring tone. This helps infants and toddlers who aren’t even able to speak when that young.

Older kids like to be told what they need to do for the day, or what they can expect for the day, or all that they will come across.

Explain to them where you will be going, or what may happen along the way, so that they are prepared well before and ready for the change.

Don’t forget to answer their questions and tell them things ‘as it is’ so that the trust develops. By doing this you are helping children cope with change that they will come across later in their life.

You’ll be surprised, but many tantrums can be avoided this ways, because you keep reminding them throughout the day of what’s going to happen – so they are ready for things.

If the change is a sad event like dealing with a terminal illness, loss, or separation etc., you need to be honest with your children, and explain things so that they understand.

Listen to your children and look out for their reactions. Don’t impose your view of the situation, but see how they perceive the change.

Kids who air their apprehensions about changes are more likely to cope better to the new situations.

Talk about the details of what will happen, where they will be, and what they would have to do. Doing so repeatedly helps them feel prepared.

I know as parents, you might want to hide sad facts from them. I used to do that thinking they are too young to understand, but with time I started telling them things so that they are well prepared.

No matter what you might hide from them – they can sense things. They are like little sensors, and pick up the smallest of changes in us and at home.

Let them grieve or mourn if it’s a loss that’s affecting them. That’s another way of helping children cope with change.

Remember, if you don’t explain facts properly, they may feel they are at fault or worry that there’s something wrong with them that’s causing the problem.

At such times children need the assurance and closeness of their parents – so be there for them. Hug them close and let them know you will always be there for them.

5- Let them explore and discover

As parents, encourage your children to explore and try out various activities and interests because this way you would be helping children cope with change that would come in their life.

When they go through various experiences and situations, it provides a fundamental base that prepares them for change.

It helps them feel good about themselves, develop self-confidence, and makes them happy.

While helping kids deal with change, you need to be prepared to weather the storm too. There will be tears, tantrums, sad times, followed by parental guilt.

It’s all part of the process, and remember it can take your children time to adjust – so remain calm. Accept you children for who and what they are.

Here’s a video where that shows how self-regulation is also important for kids, and how you can help children cope with changing situations in a positive way.

[youtube id=”VSCMD0Et9rw” width=”620″ height=”360″]

Dr. Jean-Victor Wittenberg ~ Helping your child cope ~ You Tube Video

“Accept the children the way we accept trees—with gratitude, because they are a blessing—but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change; you love them as they are.”  ~ Isabel Allende

Don’t worry, children are quick to adapt to change provided they are guided the right way and taught how to cope with the changes beforehand.

I’m sure you are doing that on your part as parents and caretakers, and if you aren’t, I hope these ways of helping children cope with changes in their lives helped you. 🙂

Over to you

How did your parents help you cope with changes in life? As parents, what ways of helping children cope with changes would you suggest? Share your views below.


Photo Credit: allspice1, Vince Alongi

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70 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Atul

    2013-06-30 at 2:01 pm

    You mentioned in your article that children can copy their parents or elders at an age of 2 years.
    but I know not only at age-2, right from the time, children are in the mother’s womb, they start understanding.
    Scientists have also claimed this tthat initially, the first organ that a child develops is mind.

    I remember in Indian Epic Mahabharata, Abhimanyu learnt war-tactics when he was in his mother’s womb and he very well practised it also when he became young and he was also successful in that tactics.

  2. Mary Stedul

    2013-04-26 at 5:23 pm

    Hi, Harleena

    Great post. I have a three year old girl and we really have some problems dealing with everything…especially changes. Sometimes it looks like she is always crying. It can really be torture. For her and for us. The only thing that helps is talk. We are talking, and talking, and talking…and some more talking. I don’t remember my mother having so much understanding for my problems when I was a kid. Maybe because she was working hard and didn’t have so much time to talk and to explain everything. I had all sorts of fears when I was kid. This is why I’m doing my best to sit down and explain everything….million times if I have to. It is always good to remember that it is just a phase, like everything else. And it is most important to keep in mind that they grow up so fast. All we can give them is love, patience and TIME. It is more difficult to them than it is to us.

  3. bhanu

    2013-04-22 at 6:54 pm

    Thanks for this valuable and helpful post.

    • Harleena Singh

      2013-04-23 at 11:49 am

      Welcome to the blog Bhanu!

      Glad you liked the post.

      Thanks for your visit as well 🙂

  4. Sylviane Nuccio

    2013-04-21 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    Another great post.

    Isn’t it interesting that for centuries humans has thought that corporal punishment was OK, and some still do? I have known for a long time that it’s wrong to hit your children, but it was interesting to hear in the video that it actually does damage to the brain. Wow! How many human beings have got such damage then? Scary, right?

    The most dramatic change in my childhood life was when my father died. And as I was saying to a friend lately, back then you weren’t even told that you parent died, because it was thought to be bad. Instead you where told that your dad left, and you of course would believe that for as long as the lie was told to you, so you’d develop that “abandonment” syndrome.

    Parents were not trying to hurt their children, but they simply were ignorant back then. A lot of them were. It’s time for parents to grow up so they can help their children do the same in a sane and safe way.

    Thanks for bringing up such great topic!

    • Harleena Singh

      2013-04-21 at 7:54 pm

      Hi Sylviane,

      Yes indeed, some parents do believe in corporal punishment, though I believe how they can manage to do that with their kids.We don’t tend to realize the damage hitting does to our brain, and even within. I guess a certain part of a child withers away when he or she is hit. Wonder why parents can’t take out other alternatives in it’s place.

      I agree, losing our parents or loved ones is most traumatic, and why go far, even to date – many young kids aren’t told about the loss of their parents thinking that it would hurt them, or sadden them etc. While to some extent it’s alright, but I feel sooner or later they will com to know of it, so why not when it happens, though convey things in a nice and gentle manner.

      Yes indeed, just like they say ignorance is bliss…parents were just happy the way they were raising their kids, not knowing the right from the wrong. Or perhaps that’s how their parents brought them up, so it’s not actually their fault either. Am glad that parents nowadays are much more educated and up-to-date about how they need to raise their kids the right way.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. 🙂

  5. Priya N

    2013-04-19 at 6:03 pm

    That is one of the answer I was looking for. My 3 years daughter is feeling the changes & I was confused how to deal with that. She is very fond of watching her videos on mobile & tablet & she can continuously spend whole day watching this. Your tips are very useful.

    • Harleena Singh

      2013-04-19 at 11:53 pm

      Welcome to the blog Priya!

      Nice to know that you could find what you were looking for here 🙂

      Ah…that’s a sweet age and the right one too to start guiding and helping children cope with change as they come across in their daily lives. I guess she is a girl of today as she loves the latest things! However, too much of anything has it’s side-effects, so be careful.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  6. margauxallen

    2013-04-19 at 2:37 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    Am actually new here and found this one very interesting. I am a teacher by profession and I truly believe that proper guidance is the essential key to help children cope with changes. Parents should be able to give time talking to their children asking them what are the things that makes their life bit uneasy – just like that thingy. And one more thing to remember, if a child commits mistake, it is not advisable to scold him. Its wise to talk to him, ask him on the cause of that matter and give him consequences of his actions so that he might be able to realize that he we is wrong in doing such.

    • Harleena Singh

      2013-04-19 at 3:29 pm

      Welcome to the blog Margauxallen!

      Nice to know more about you, and yes, if kids are guided in the right direction it helps them face the future challenges of life, which are much larger ones 🙂

      Yes indeed, by talking or communicating with your children, parents can comfort their uneasy feelings and make them feel better about anything. In-fact open communications and being more of a friend to them helps a great deal. I agree, scolding though is alright to a certain extent if they commit a serious mistake, but better still is to win them over with love and understanding. Parents need to explain to their kids what they could have done in the place of mistake they committed in a better way.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  7. Theodore Nwangene

    2013-04-19 at 12:04 pm

    Change is really constant Harleena,

    And I quite agree with that. As a kid, I also experienced some changes while growing up. I could remember the first day i saw hair on my private parts, i was somehow surprised, but because my dad had already told me something like that, it wasn’t that difficult for me to understand.

    Another one was when they changed my school, i didn’t want to go at all because i knew i will miss my friends and it will be hard to make those new ones that will replace the ones i had on my formal school but, my parents sat me down and after giving me the reason’s i had to change school, it was dawned on me.

    Therefore, as kids, its really very vital that parents go closer to them and also become their friends too so as to make it easier for them.

    Thanks for sharing Leena.

    So good to be here again.

    • Harleena Singh

      2013-04-19 at 1:04 pm

      Hi Theodore,

      Oh yes…everyone and everything changes – right from us humans to non-living things too. It’s good that your parents prepared you well in advance about the changes you were to undergo in your life, which helped you cope with it.

      I guess most kids have a problem in shifting schools, changing houses, and making new friends, especially when they are young. But by helping children cope with change parents can prepare kids for the real and tough challenges they would face later in their lives.

      I agree, parents need to bond with their kids and vice-versa by playing the role of parents, as well as a friend, counselor and guide, and help them lead a happy life.

      Thanks for stopping by, and am glad things are sorted out at your blog too. 🙂

  8. Ahsan

    2013-04-19 at 11:17 am

    Hello Harleena,

    Definitely parents are the great assets for a kid. He who lost his parents at young age, will be the most unfortunate person.

    As the age increases, the kid grows up & parents should move forward on that way. They need to realize that they are the main guideline of a kid. what parents do, it will be transformed in kid’s mind. So parents need to be systematic in their work too. Otherwise, kid will follow bad behavior.

    You added very important points how parents can cope up as the kid grows up.

    • Harleena Singh

      2013-04-19 at 12:57 pm

      Hi Ahsan,

      You are right – losing parents at a young age is very unfortunate for a child because then no can teach those kids how to cope with change. Yes, life teaches a lot, but how can anyone replace a parent – isn’t it?

      Children always copy their parents in most of the cases, so parents need to be careful about what and how they behave. I guess it helps if parents portray a positive attitude to cope with change, seeing which their kids will follow suite.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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5 Ways of Helping Children Cope With Change In Life

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