Change, if we examine the definition it simply means to become different, or make something or somebody different. Both adults and kids are alike when it comes to familiarity, we thrive on it. We know what time we are supposed to wake up in the morning, when to get dressed, when to have that first cup of coffee or juice, and when to start our commute to work or ride to school. When routines and expectations are shaken up we are unable to easily go with the flow willingly and unafraid. This definitely affects children, who by nature are schedule and routine driven.
When my youngest daughter was just 2 she even knew what to expect daily during the week. I would wake her up, get her dressed (she would want to play and not get dressed until her dad appeared in the room; lovingly but stern), feed her breakfast, grab her bag and toys, and we would leave for the babysitter. After work either her dad or I would pick her up, only to find her waiting at the screen door with joy and anticipation in her eyes waiting for our arrival. She even knew what was next, go home, wash up, eat dinner, and playtime. With kids when you adjust or tweak their schedule they become uneasy, agitated, and unsure. But change is inevitable and is the only constant as we all know. So how do we teach our children how to handle change, while taking a long look at it ourselves, while being open?
The first thing we as parents must do is plan. When we know that change is brewing we must take a long look at the situation, analyze it, pay attention to only the details that will indeed change, and break things down into Pros and Cons. Many times when things change our initial instinct is to be afraid, upset, and negative. Change doesn’t have to be bad and in many cases can bring new opportunities and objectives. That said, the difficult part is adjusting, no matter how pleasant the change can actually be. For instance, if your family is preparing to move to a new house, neighborhood, and school this can be daunting for your kiddos. They have grown accustomed to their house, their room, the swing set in the backyard, their friends, neighbors, and teachers. So this is a huge step and new venture for them.
To make your child more at ease with change you must first be open to the change; accepting and willing to seriously try to make things work. If you are, this will show in your confidence and your children will in turn be more positive about the changes. When you sit down and tell them new things are on the horizon start off with very small amounts of information, offering positive thoughts and excitement along the way. Some children can’t handle too much information in one sitting, if this is your child only tell them a small tidbit and help them to accept and become eager about that. Once they are beginning to show signs of acceptance and coping, then you can deliver more news, perhaps later in the week. Be sure to strategically plan your informational sessions so that they build upon one another and bring out the best of the aforementioned modification, this way you aren’t just giving the worst of the news and then sprinkling in positives here and there. You are looking at the overall positive of the change. Be very careful about dropping a ton of adjustments on your child at once, no matter how minor you may think they are.
Once your child has been told of the change and you’ve provided support and positive feedback, allow the child a time to, in essence, ‘grieve’ the loss of their old habits, routine, neighborhood etc. Be there as a sounding board ready to listen and understand how deeply this may affect them. Let them know that everything must change; there is time and a season for everything no matter how beautiful or horrible. Living through these seasons makes us stronger, more flexible, and in tune to how the world around us revolves. Making change apparent to young children is highly imperative. As they need to know that although there may be bumps ahead they can weather the storm and find adventure and pleasure in new things to come. The most important take away I believe, is since we know change is inevitable we may as well think of it as a new chance to explore, grow, and learn new things and in some cases welcome a new life.