How to Help A Child Adjust to Change
As humans, we are naturally resistant to change. We are comfortable with our routines, we like our coffee a certain way, we load the dishwasher correctly (while everyone else clearly does it incorrectly). And asking us to change the way we take our coffee or, heaven forbid, how we load the dishwasher, would likely result in an immediate, “No.”
Now imagine a child going through change or transition that upsets their routine or the way of life they’ve known thus far. If you meet change with opposition as an adult, you can see how processing life transitions for a child can lead to a variety of behavioral and emotional responses.
So how can you help your child through this process? In this second installment dedicated to exploring small doses of adaptive change for children, we’ll focus on how to help children work through transitions.
Types of Change that Can Affect a Child
Change is difficult for anyone, but for children, certain types of transitions can be more devastating to their world than others. This is not an exhaustive list, but some major changes that can affect children include:
Attending a new school
Welcoming a baby sibling
Experiencing a death in the family or of a close loved one
The military deployment of a parent or guardian
Ways a Child Might Respond to Transitions
According to the Child Mind Institute, a child may come against change or a transition with:
These reactions and many others may appear because of built-up emotions or because the child has learned that certain behaviors have previously allowed them to delay or avoid dealing with the change or transition. For parents, guardians, and caregivers, being able to recognize these behaviors in a little one is necessary to help the child successfully navigate the change.
What You Can Do
Regulate Your Own Emotions
Children are incredibly intuitive and can pick up on and feel your emotions. The first step in helping your child understand change is to ensure that you acknowledge and process your own emotions and feelings.
Recognize When Emotional & Developmental Issues May Be at Play
Every child is prone to throwing a tantrum every now and again. The Child Mind Institute states that for parents and guardians of children with emotional and developmental issues—such as autism— it’s important to understand that dealing with transitions may be more difficult for your children.
Allow Them Time to Prepare for Change
Some changes, such as a death in the family, don’t allow anyone time to prepare for the flood of emotions. But other changes, such as getting ready for a new sibling, give you and your child time to prepare for the major change. According to an article on Big Life Journal, children (who are creatures of habit and routine) can process transitions more easily when they can familiarize themselves with unfamiliar things. For example, if your child will be going to a new school, take a tour of the facilities, including their classroom, and ask to meet their teachers. Drive by the school and remind them that they will be a new student there, well before their first day.
Acknowledge and Hear Your Child’s Concerns and Emotions
Just like adults, children want to know that their emotions are acknowledged and valid. They may not know how to express those feelings, or what to call them, but you can help them navigate this challenge. Inviting your child to talk about their feelings—while actively listening and coaching them through those feelings—can help them more deeply process and understand the situation. In addition, they’ll feel secure knowing that the adults they trust most in their lives are listening and there for them.
Minimize Disruptions to Routines
Helping your child feel safe and heard throughout an uncomfortable change begins with keeping as many routines as normal as possible. For example, bedtimes and mealtimes should be regular and occur at the same hours of each day.
Make Cresthill Academy Part of Your Child’s Routine
At Cresthill Academy, we understand the unique challenges that raising, caring for, and
teaching children present, especially during times of change. For this reason, our daycares are staffed by highly trained and dedicated educators and instructors who are experts in early childhood development practices. We don’t follow one methodology over another; instead, our approach is a blended one that has an emphasis on whole-child development.
To learn more about our premier daycare, contact Cresthill Academy today and schedule a tour. We’re New Jersey’s premier child day care and preschool, and we offer a variety of programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. Our locations, which include Harrison, Hoboken Uptown, Hoboken Downtown, East Hanover, and Lyndhurst, New Jersey, are convenient and centrally located.
“Why Do Kids Have Trouble With Transitions?,” https://childmind.org/article/why-do-kids-have-trouble-with-transitions/, Child Mind Institute
“7 Ways to Help Kids Cope with Big Life Changes,” https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/help-kids-cope-big-life-changes, Big Life Journal