Well now that we’re into December and officially into the down hill run for the year I thought it might be good to talk a little bit about dealing with change. The end of the year is often a time when both children and adults are gearing up for big changes in their life. Perhaps moving house, one or both parents changing jobs, having a good friend move away or starting at a new daycare, pre-school, school or even starting high school for the first time. Change can be difficult for anyone, but especially for kids.
Some people seem to cope with change better than others…
Personally, I’m not very good at coping with change. Recently I’ve been reflecting over the past 12 months and I’ve actually had quite a bit of change in my life. I gave up my job which I loved, I had a new baby, I launched my first children’s book and had to learn a whole new industry and then my eldest child started school. My husband also changed his working hours more than once. There have been a few times this year when we’ve thought about moving to another city, going overseas or buying a house in another area of Sydney and I really haven’t wanted to. My instinct has been to sit tight. So personally I’m not wanting any big changes for 2013, but I know that for lots of families some change is inevitable.
So I’ve done some research into how to help children cope with change and here are a few ideas.
– Usually anxiety around change is fear of the unknown. For children they might be worried about not knowing who they’ll make friends with or who their teacher will be. So remind them of other times they’ve made new friends or coped with a big change.
– Give them as much information as you can about the details,even if you can’t answer all their questions about what life will be like next year. Take them to see their new house or new school or show them photos so they get a sense of what their life might be like.
– Focus on the positive aspects of the change so they have things to look forward to.
– Practice the rituals – getting dressed in the school uniform, packing up the back pack, practising where to catch the bus.
– Kids love routine, so it’s a good idea to keep some aspects of your routine the same, especially routines around meals and bedtime.
– And make sure they have plenty of notice about any changes that are happening. Many kids don’t react well to having things sprung on them at the last minute.
Often the changes that affect children most are things that they have no control of… so it’s important to be aware of signs that suggest they’re NOT coping.
Hopefully they’ll tell you if they’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, but if not it may show in their behaviour. Whether that’s through tantruming or being withdrawn or not sleeping or eating as well as usual – all those things can be signs that kids are bottling up their feelings.
The good news is that young kids get most of their security from their relationship with their parents so as long as you remain constant and you’re available to talk to, that can be very reassuring for them. Also little kids are used to dealing with lots of big changes – learning to walk and talk are two of the most colossal changes a person could go through. Children are always learning new things about the world. So they may even cope better with change than we do.
If our kids are really concerned about a change, it’s possible that they’re taking their cues from the adults around them.
Maybe we’re the ones who are having trouble coping with the idea of our baby starting school, or of leaving all our friends. We need to make sure we’re not projecting our worries onto our kids and burdening them with things that otherwise wouldn’t concern them.
Have you had some big changes in your life? How have you coped with them? How have your children adapted to moving house, changing cities, moving overseas or starting a new school or pre-school?