The only thing in life that is constant is change.
It may be constant and it may be happening all around us and everyone does experience it every day. But we all don’t feel the same way about change. We may be more of a Sheldon character where change is very scary and anxiety-ridden. Or we may be more of a Cher character where we are excited and adapt to the changing times. Which are you a Sheldon or a Cher?
Children sometimes have a hard time understanding change. This month’s YoPlay Yoga For Kids lesson plan addresses CHANGE in its lesson “Everything Changes: Fall on the Farm”. It provides a light-hearted and educational perspective on some of the changes that occur on the farm at the change of the season. As the above quote states, the only thing that is constant is change, it is never to soon to learn how to best accept and embrace change.
Feel the “Feels”
We can feel it in our bodies when things are changing, we may be excited with butterflies in our tummies. We may feel worried by tossing and turning in our beds at night. We may feel scared and get very quiet or lash out at our loved ones. We may feel sad and cry into our pillows or someone’s arms. We may feel positive or grateful for what was and anticipation for what will be.
It’s okay to feel all the feels when change is in the air. It’s how we respond to our “feels” is what really matters. As adults hopefully we’ve learned some healthy coping skills to deal with change. But how do we teach our children healthy ways to accept and embrace change?
How can we help our children with all the feels when it comes to change?
I went directly to the source and asked my own kids. They are accustomed to change as things have been constantly in flux for us since September of 2017. Since then we have sold our house and 90% of everything in it to live a minimalist and nomadic life (@byerswithoutborders). My husband does medical contract work which has taken us from Texas to Connecticut, to Florida, back to Texas and New Mexico. We also do international volunteer work that has had us traveling from Bhutan to Thailand to Singapore to Indonesia over to Rwanda and now Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
My kids’ responses were a combination of these six tips below.
6 Tips to Help Your Child With Change
Lily stated, “I just brace for it and hold on”. She’s our witty one for sure but what really helps her, she said, in the end, is talking with her twin sister.
Seems simple enough right? Sometimes children need to just talk about what’s going on in their lives, either with us their parents, their siblings or their best friends. Sometimes when you talk out your thoughts and feelings about what’s changing and going on around you, you can get a little more sense of perspective. We also have family meetings where we each get to share our thoughts, ideas, concerns about an upcoming move or travel.
Stop what you’re doing, put down your phone, and really listen to their feelings. Oftentimes feelings escalate into frustration, tantrums and undesirable behavior because kids don’t feel heard or acknowledged. So when they’re making a bigger-than-necessary dramatic fuss because they want you to notice they’re not happy with the situation. The best response is to acknowledge and LISTEN. Letting them know you are there for them can make them feel more secure in their feelings.
“Not only should you listen, but also let your child know that they are being heard and taken seriously.”
Be in the moment, fully present and focused on what your child has to say. It is not enough to listen while folding clothes, making dinner or picking up toys. Turn to them, make eye contact and really listen.
3. Sleep & Nutrition
Isabelle’s immediate response, when I asked what helps her the most when things are changing, was SLEEP. As a preteen sleep has become more important to her but I also know it helps her with transitions. And honestly, if I don’t get my sleep everything can be challenging for me so I totally understand.
Well-rested kids help fend off the “crankies”. As we all know, naps can work wonders for children’s moods and coping skills, and just like adults, plenty of sleep helps them feel more in control and able to deal with new experiences.
Keeping your kiddos well fed and hydrated is also important during transitions. If you’re in the middle of moving day or a travel day you want to have healthy snacks on hand to fend off the “hangries”.
Well rested and full tummies keep kids happier and calmer.
4. Allow them to feel the “feels”
Of course, as parents, we want our children to be happy all the time but let’s face it, it wouldn’t be parenthood without a tantrum or two and a few meltdowns along the way. Instead of rushing in to sweep those feelings away or under the rug acknowledge their emotions and let them know it’s okay to cry or be sad when it’s time to leave the playground or move away from friends. Acknowledging and naming those emotions and feelings lets your kids know that what they’re feeling is normal and okay and it gives them validation.
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. ~George Santayana
Get this FREE Downloadable Mindfulness Activity and learn how to accept and embrace change.
5. Keep a Routine
This one is key for us. With all of our moves and travels, I find keeping the same; bedtime and bedtime routine, and when stateside a meal plan and activities (being part of a swim team) is the best way to keep the emotions from flailing about when things are in transition.
Children thrive on routine because it makes their daily lives feel predictable. Predictability for kids is like being wrapped in their favorite blankie, it makes them feel secure, happy and healthy. If you know the routine will be changing slightly keep them informed on the timeline of events. Knowing what to expect is as close to predictability as I can get sometimes. Without structure, our children will feel a sense of chaos which only breeds stress.
Routine breeds consistency and safety. When stateside or somewhere in the world we keep bedtime the same or what it should be in a new time zone. They sleep with their favorite lovies and spend time with a bedtime story or two. When it comes to meals we follow a menu plan so they know what to expect each night of the week when we are stateside, like, noodles on Thursdays, pizza on Fridays and breakfast for dinner on Saturdays. But when we are overseas it is a little more challenging but we often allow them to make familiar choices such as burgers or spaghetti for the first few days before asking them to explore their palate.
6. Focus on Gratitude
Stella’s response was of no surprise as she sees the good everywhere with her 108 hearts. So when she said, “I look for the things that are good” it made sense.
As parents, it’s important for us to set the tone. Kids are drawn to our moods like the tide to the moon.
Your family’s change may not be something exciting and happy, it may, unfortunately, be of a negative situation. It is important to look to the bright side for the sake of your child. If we are constantly talking about the negative, your child is going to do the same. To help ease their stress and anxiety, focus on the positive!
I personally keep a gratitude journal so I can stay focused on the positive and things that I am grateful for daily and my kids have adopted the same and this helps with our many transitions.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Our lives are always changing and presenting our families with new obstacles and transitions and yes, it can be hard. When our family experiences life-altering changes and I’ve felt negative and run-down, I’ve wished for the strength to accept change and move forward with each new challenge, and the grace to teach my daughters to do the same. Remember that even changes you may think are positive can still be tough for your little one. Be ready to help your child transition in the smoothest way possible. Remember to be open to and aware of everyone’s feelings, and be sure your kids are heard when they’re upset. Stick to routines and healthy habits, and set an example for your kiddos by having a positive, and grateful outlook as possible throughout times of change.
Share Your Tips: How do you help your kids deal with change?
–Roots of Action, Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D.