Change for anyone can be a huge process bringing many emotions but it can also be difficult helping kids adapt to change also. I find that as I get older big things in my life that change can bring on more anxiety and stress than it did during my twenties when we almost embraced change with open arms. Change can be a very positive experience and in many cases change is exciting but within that can still be the uncertainty of the unknown and if we as adults feel this, then it can bring a period of adjustment and stress for a child.
One of my daughters’ beautiful teachers this week wrote some notes about her while she was drawing a self-portrait. She described the evidence through the drawing and her explanation of it, that her family was her whole world and she constructs her identity through her family. Having had two children has made me so aware of the impact that family has on you as a child and it is vital when there is change within the family they feel okay with it.
Of course, there is far worse change than what we are going through but in our case, we have lived in the same house and the same area since the children were born so this is all they have ever known. Uprooting them and changing houses, the area we have lived in their whole lives, our lifestyle and the school they attend will be a big change. As we are doing this shortly, it is important that the children feel as safe and secure about these changes as possible. New friends, new neighbours, new areas to discover and explore are all part of the adventure and will certainly be embraced by all of us but new beginnings and leaving our comfort zones are scary and sometimes daunting and can take time to work through. Even just the new noises in the house at night time.
These are some of the things we are doing to help the kids adjust to a new lifestyle and change:
- Visualise. I have found that if both my kids are able to picture and see the changes this has been a huge help. We have talked about change for some time but as their bedrooms, house and school are all they know it is difficult for them to imagine any other way. I have found by including them in the process and showing them all the new places such as schools, new house, new shops etc they now can picture where they will be and picture themselves going there. We tried to involve them in looking at the houses and asking them what they liked and didn’t like helped us find the process exciting as well as being able to see us living there
- Communication. The more you talk with the children about the change the better. It is important for the kids to know that this means change for you as an adult as well and that is okay to feel nervous or unsure about the changes. Everyone experiences it. Talking about their feelings and how it makes them feel is very important. Giving examples of the changes and what may be different is also great too.
- Routine. Children love and thrive on routine and knowing what is going to happen next. During periods of change, their routine can be thrown out the window. It is important to try and keep as much as possible the same. Even if it is little things like still having dinner at the dining table every evening, or keeping the bedtime routine the same. Letting them do the normal things they normally do after school or on the weekends. Keeping certain aspects of their life the same makes it much easier for them to adjust and know that their family environment is still a safe and secure place for them to be.
- Patience. During periods of adjustment, they may need you to be a little more patient! This can be hard when you also have a lot on your plate. Nighttime and a new bedroom will be a big deal for some children, so spending a few extra minutes with them, perhaps putting a night light in the corridor or some soft music playing will help them settle into their new bedroom quickly. I have bought some new special wall decals and furniture for their room so straight away they will be excited and see it as a positive experience. They can then also make their room their own.
- Adapting. I know that with my son if things are different he can get stressed or just throw his hands up in the air. It is important for kids to see you adapt to new changes and see that they can adapt too. If something is different don’t throw your hands in the air, teach them examples of how we can enjoy the new changes and different ways of doing things. Make the changes fun.
Has your family gone through big changes? How have your children coped with new changes?