Check out these techniques and tips for helping your child cope with change (and even embrace it). If your kid struggles with change and uncertainty, read on.
As always, all content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. Read my full disclosure here.
Change is a natural part of life
It’s inevitable, but it’s a hard pill to swallow at any age. It’s really no surprise that many children suffer from anxiety and dysregulation due to life changes, since many adults do as well!
Change is uncomfortable. Fear of the unknown, and sadness over things coming to an end are normal reactions to change.
How do we help our kids cope with change? I have some tips and techniques below. It all starts with being your child’s safe place. When everything else is falling apart, Mommy/Daddy (or any guardian) should be consistent, reliable, and loving.
In every unit study I create, I add a “connected parenting” discussion topic. For my Autumn Unit, the topic was: Change.
While this might not be seasonally relevant year-round, I’ve attached a copy of the printable below to give you an idea of a guided discussion to have with your child about embracing and accepting change as a normal part of life.
Tips and Techniques to Help your Child Embrace Change
1. Have an Ongoing Discussion about Change
Keeping an open dialogue is always the first step when it comes to parenting. Try sitting your child down, even if they’re young, and just talk.
Use my guided discussion printable above if you wish, and omit the “Autumn” theme if need be.
Validate their feelings
Everyone wants to feel understood and heard, and our children are no exception. Validation is a big part of any discussion about painful or big topics. Start any conversation off by validating your child’s feelings, which shouldn’t be hard in this case. After all, parents and adults struggle with change just as much. We can all relate.
Offer your support
Sometimes we feel powerless to help our children through their emotions, especially when it comes to topics that we can’t do anything about. While it might not feel like offering support and a listening ear is enough, I assure you, it makes a huge difference. You are your child’s safe place, and reminding them of that often is more than enough.
Anyone who follows me for any amount of time knows that I take language seriously. We can normalize times of change and transition by using the power of our words.
When we speak about changes, both big and small, it’s great to use positive and uplifting language. Modeling by example is one of the harder parts of parenting, but is absolutely key. When your family is going through times of change or uncertainty, use positive language that expresses that you’re uncomfortable with change sometimes too, but it’s nothing you can’t face together.
2. Breathe Together
Breathing is such a powerful technique. I didn’t appreciate the truth behind breathing as a coping technique until I was an adult, so I try my best to make it a normal part of my children’s lives so they have an easier time managing stress and anxiety growing up.
When your child has moments of emotional dysregulation due to stress surrounding change, try breathing together or repeating a mantra.
3. Give Warnings of Upcoming Change
This is something you likely already know about without even realizing it. Have you ever given your child a warning of an upcoming transition? “10 more minutes, and then it’s time for bath!”
This helps our children prepare for what’s to come. It’s easy once you realize children are just little humans. Imagine if your life and schedule was almost entirely dictated by other people and forces outside of your control. That’s enough to cause an anxiety attack in pretty much anyone after a while.
So, be sure to keep your child in mind, even though it can be easy to get caught up in our own rhythm of events.
4. Keep Things Consistent in Other Areas of their Life
There are many things we cannot control, so try to focus on being consistent for your child in the areas you do have control. If your family is going through a major (or series of minor) life changes, focus on what you can keep the same for your child. Things as simple as:
- Meals they know and love
- Family bonding time
- Bedtime routine
All of these things can create a blanket of comfort for your child and make or break their internal dialogue and demeanor.
5. Make Sure They’re Eating and Sleeping Well
This is true at any given time, and at any age. Proper diet and sleep is vital! These 2 things can have a major impact on your child’s mood and stress levels.
6. Answer Questions Honestly, with Reassurance of What Will Never Change
Sometimes our children will ask questions that we don’t have answers to, so all we can do is answer honestly and provide comfort. Create certainty in times of uncertainty.
For example, let’s say your child asks when you’re going to be able to see a family member again, and you don’t have the answer. You can answer truthfully, “You know what baby, I’m not sure, but -” and follow it up with something that is also true, and in your control. “I’m not sure, but Mommy is here, and tomorrow we can go to the park for some time outside since we’re not sure when we’ll get to see them. I know that makes you disappointed.”
7. Accept Whatever Grieving or Feelings They Might Have
There’s no telling how your child might react to times of uncertainty and change. You can expect periods of grieving, lashing out, and an array of other emotions. All we can do is accept what they throw at us, and offer support and guidance.
8. Offer Autonomy and Choices
I strongly encourage parents to offer autonomy and freedom of choice as often as possible in general. Whether it’s a time of high stress, or just a regular Tuesday afternoon, it’s important that we check ourselves and don’t inadvertently cross boundaries with our kids, or take advantage of their inability to do for themselves in many regards.
But, when it comes to times of change and anxiety, offering freedom of choice gives your child more power, which can massively improve their feelings of anxiousness and powerlessness. It gives them something they can choose and be involved in.
9. Create and Stick to Routines
Children thrive on routine! Some really thrive on routine. Perhaps your child is one of those people. Maybe not! Either way, if they’re currently struggling with change, routine will ground them and remind them that they can find comfort and safety in their home.
10. Spend Time in Nature
Nature is absolutely vital. It’s healing, no matter the circumstances. It’s beneficial at any given time! Happy? Go out in nature. Stressed? Nature. Tired? Nature.
It creates a change of scenery and fresh air. What more could you want when feeling overwhelmed?
11. Set the Tone
Everyone knows that mom and dad set the tone in the home. Try to be inspiringly positive in the face of adversity. It’s extremely difficult, but every comment, tone and attitude we choose has power and shapes how our children react in similar situations throughout their life.
When something unexpected happens in your life, try handling it with grace (at least when your child is looking). If nothing else, it’s comforting for them to see their parents handling these moments well, even if they still feel anxious about it.
How do you help your child cope with change, and even embrace it? Share your tips below!
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