Changes are inevitable and can often be difficult to adapt to. Changes can cause a child’s routine to dramatically alter, which may be emotionally difficult for a child. Moving to a new house not only means a new home for a child, but also a new school, friends, teachers and neighborhood. Welcoming a new baby into a home will change a child’s routine. Even changes that seem to solely affect a parent may be difficult for a child, such as a parent’s new job. As the parent experiences increased stress, the child may pick up on the parent’s emotions.
Kids experience change differently depending on age because of developmental changes in their understanding as they grow up. Here are a few tips to helping a child cope with change:
Tell your child about the change early and in as much depth as you can.
For example, if you are moving, bring them on a tour of their new home, school and neighborhood. If you are expecting a new baby, clearly explain the upcoming changes in their daily routine while also reminding them of what won’t change. When transitioning between elementary to middle school, bring your child on a tour of the new school.
When possible, include your child in decision making.
Include your child on choices when possible, such as picking out their new bedroom. This will help them feel like they are in more control of the change.
Listen to and address your child’s concerns.
Children often fear changes in different ways than adults do. For example, kids transitioning from elementary to middle school may fear they’ll never see or talk to old friends. Because of this, it’s important to listen to and address a child’s fears of change. Young children may not have developed the vocabulary to voice their concerns or feelings. In this situation, it may benefit to use a picture book about change that a child can respond to.
Remind your child they have the support of friends and family.
Children experiencing a move feel like they might lose their closeness of family or friends. It’s important to reassure these bonds while encouraging your child to explore the change, such as meeting new friends during a move. To do this, inform the parents of your child’s friend about the change so that they are aware. For older kids, allow them to tell their friends of the change when they feel comfortable. Rely on close family and friends to reiterate that their bonds won’t be lost after the change takes place.
Encourage and provide ways for your child to express themselves.
During times of change help your child find new ways of expressing their feelings. This may include activities that are soothing to a child, such as a sport or painting. Journal writing is also a great way for a child to express himself and reflect on his emotions.
Note: This information should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a mental health condition. Call 612-871-1454 to learn more about Washburn Center’s mental health services for children.