Happy Bebe Moore Campbell Minority Mental Health Awareness Month! All kids deserve kind, safe, welcoming places to grow.

How do I support my child through change?

Help Your Child Process Upcoming Changes: 

Change Journal

Changes can bring lots of big feelings in children. Help them handle these emotions with a journaling activity.

  1. Sit with your child and write or draw about what the change looks like. 
    • Examples: a picture of the new baby,  new home, upcoming travel.
  2. Make a list with your child of what will change. 
    • For example: new house, new school, different schedule, baby will take some of your attention, etc. 
  3. Make a list of what will stay the same. 
    • Examples: have the same bed and toys, still do fun things together, etc.
    • Emphasize while there are external changes, your love for them will not change. 
  4. Make a list of feelings about the upcoming change. 
    • Remember all feelings are valid.
    • Your child might be feeling more than one thing at a time. For example, they might be excited for a new baby and nervous. Two seemingly opposites can be true at the same time. 
  5. If you feel comfortable, you can share your feelings too.

Change is a fairly constant part of life. While caregivers can try to reduce change, inevitably some routine will shift and affect a child emotionally, as well as behaviorally. 

Family changes that create challenges include: 

  • Moving to a new home or city
  • A family trip or a caregiver’s absence
  • Parents separation or divorce
  • Adding a new sibling
  • Starting at a new school
  • New jobs or routines for parents

Tips for helping your child with a big transition:

1. Give them as much information and preparation as possible and as is appropriate for their development. 

  • If it’s a move  to a new city, you can show them pictures of your new house, their new school, or a fun park you might visit there.  
  • If you are having a baby, talk about what a baby might do day or night. Let them know that they will probably cry and sleep a lot. Show them how you’ll care for the baby as you change a diaper or give a bottle – if appropriate share that this is similar to the care they received. 
  • If partners are separating, explain how it will or won’t affect them specifically – for example where each of you will live, where the child will live and when they will get to spend time with each, if appropriate.   
  • Providing details can help reduce a child’s anxiety about some of the unknowns.

2. Give your child some decision making power. 

  • Big changes can make children feel powerless.
  • Age appropriate decisions can give them a sense of control. 
  • Examples include: allow your child to pick out a decoration for their new room, the welcome-home dinner for an away-time or a small gift for the baby. 

3.  Support and validate whatever feelings arise. 

  • It is natural for your child to have a range of emotions when faced with big life changes. 
  • Don’t be afraid of their feelings, allow space for them to share them with you.
    • It can help to stay grounded or settle yourself prior to sitting with them.
  • Give yourself a safe space to express your emotions with a supportive adult. 

4.  Stay connected to family and friends.

  • Encourage your child to continue to communicate with other safe and supportive adults through video calling, emails or even letters. 
  • Support your child in communicating with friends or using creative outlets like art and dance or movement to express those feelings..

Children’s books about change

  • Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away by Maria Medina, Illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
  • Goodbye, Old House by Maragret Wild, Illustrated by Ann James
New Sibling
  • Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born, by Miranda Paul and Jason Chin 
  • The New Small Person by Lauren Child
  • Two Homes by Claire Masurel and Kady MacDonald Denton
  • Why Do Families Change? Our First Talk About Separation and Divorce by Dr. Jillian Roberts, Illustrated by Cindy Revell