5 Ways of Helping Children Cope With Change In Life
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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.
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