Right now is one of those crazy times in life where lots of big changes are happening at once. We’re moving to a new home, having a new baby, and my husband is starting a new job. Whew!
It’s hard for my kids to wrap their heads around all these things. They pepper me with questions, often the same
ones, over and over.
- When are we moving?
- When is the baby coming?
- Which one happens first?
- When we move will we bring my dolls? My toys? What about our food?
The questions stem from a place of curiosity, rather than anxiety, and for that I am grateful. I have enough stress to deal with on my own, thank you very much!
All these changes have led me to ponder the best ways I and others like me can help kids through those big transitions in life. New baby, a parent’s new job, and new home are all positive changes. Sometimes changes are for unfortunate reasons, such as death or divorce.
Here are a few pointers I’ve put together to help kids through these turn-over times.
- Resist the urge to unload your stress on your child. You, the parent, are going through a lot and sometimes it is tempting to share your frazzled feelings with the first person available-your child. This is a big mistake. Children have a deep-seated need for a caretaker they can perceive as powerful and in control. Sharing massive amounts of weakness with your child can foster insecurities and anxieties because your child is simply not able to handle the burden of adult weaknesses. Instead, find a trusted friend or family member who is a good listener and can provide you with the empathy you need during these testing times.
- Help your child carve out a niche of control. Kids feel good about things that they can control. Sometimes all it takes is a simple activity, like sitting together and writing a list, mapping out a plan, or brainstorming solution ideas. For example, my son tends to worry about having friends. The move may be difficult for him because we won’t be near the friends he’s used to playing with. For him, sitting with me to write a list of “Friends I Can Get Together With in the New House” gives a sense of security and control.
- Find ways to make your child a part of the process. When change happens, you can empower your child by making him part of the process. Let him or her pack a few boxes, help shop for baby gear, or set up some equipment for Mom or Dad’s new job. This gives the child a feeling of importance and establishes the tone for events to be perceived as positive changes.
- Always answer your child’s questions, in words, he can understand. When your child knows what is happening, he can handle it so much better. That’s why it’s important to take the time to answer your child’s questions, in a calm and comforting voice, no matter how many times s/he asks them. Be positive as much as possible. Think about the things that are important to your child, and highlight whatever positives will come about from the change for him or her.
Yes, change can be stressful. And yet, it is also a part of life. If nothing ever changes, we are not really living. So take a deep breath, and keep at it. Before you know it, you’ll be over the hump.