Have you ever experienced a significant change in your routine, day or your life? No matter how organized or "scheduled" you may be, there are those times that something big or different happens and the "normal" that you knew might become a new normal. Moving to a new house or a new city, getting a new job, welcoming a new baby in the house (maybe even two), hosting relatives visiting, going to a new doctor, experiencing a death, etc. There are so many variables in our lives that it's often hard to plan for and manage the many changes that could take place.
As adults, we are equipped to understand and manage change. We might not like it but we are much more capable of coping and asking questions to understand what the changes will mean. We are able to refer to old experiences and use those experiences to put the new one into perspective. We are able to use our skills and strengths to manage the emotional and cognitive strain that the changes might create. We use the information that we need to manage the event in a positive and pro-active way. In other words, we have the developmental capabilities to manage the impact of the event.
Now, take a moment to think about changes, monumental events, or even small events as they relate to the children in your life. I imagine that it is quite possibly a long list. A move to a new house or something as small as new shoes can make the morning routine more challenging. Your children don't have the skills, coping mechanisms or experience to deal with change as well as adults may.
Here are some things that you can do and a few things to remember when your family or child is faced with a change:
- Do not talk about it too much. Too much information is overwhelming and while adults need and can understand a lot of information, children typically only need to know the basics. Answer the questions that they ask (and no more) or explain to them what is relevant in that moment. Over informing a child doesn't help as much as it might help an adult. It can actually cause more stress and anxiety in some instances. You want to prepare a child and be honest, but try to maintain a balance of how much you share.
- Telling children about an event that is not actually going to take place for a long time can be counterproductive. For example, if you tell your child about their new house months before you are actually going to move, your child may feel overwhelmed or anxious about it for months, which will cause all of you more stress.
- Maintain routines and rituals and try not to add another change, no matter how small until your child has had time to adjust to the first one. Routines are important so that children can maintain some control, which is especially important to toddlers and preschoolers.
Change itself can come quickly or slowly, but adjusting to the new state of things takes time. Make sure you give yourself and your children the luxury of having time to adjust. Don't expect too much too soon. Some changes are easy to adapt to and some aren't. Some children adapt quickly and some children don't. There may be tears and tantrums, changes in sleep patterns and eating habits, so be prepared and be patient. Children will eventually adjust and move forward, adapting to the change.