Life Right Now

How-to: Teach your child to deal with change

They say that change such as starting a new job, moving into a new home or having a new baby are the top three that cause the greatest amount of stress on a human being. This got me thinking…

If moving home or getting another addition to the family are part of the top three stress-causing changes that we could go through as adults, how does this not affect our children who do not have the emotional capacity to yet cope with such massive changes?

The reason for these thoughts running through my mind lately is duly caused by the fact that we are planning to relocate to the Cape Winelands (from the Northern Suburbs) by – hopefully – the end of the year. Along with this, we’ve been on the big hunt of finding another suitable school in the new town to where we are relocating and along with this, Caitlin’s current school is also expanding and causing some changes in structure and teachers etc. Needless to say, come the end of this year Caitlin will most likely have changed day supervision five times. That’s insane, right?! So much change for such a little person in such a small amount of time..?!

This brings me to my next question…

How does one teach your child to deal (or cope) with change?

As they don’t yet possess the coping skills that (most) adults do, it is up to us as parent to teach them the basics in which they can understand the changes about to happen and communicate how these changes affect them.

I’ve gone and done some research (as I’m one of those that absolutely hate to be unprepared for anything that I go through) and have found the follow five ways of teaching your child to deal with change:

1. Teach them to express feelings through words

Big emotions in little ones can be very scary! Not always knowing how to cope with them makes them ‘act out’ sometimes in a manner that we as adults do not always understand. When we teach our children to connect words to the emotions that we are feeling, it enables them to communicate to us what is upsetting them and in turn we understand what they are going through and can manage it accordingly.

When you’re little one gets upset, why not try and ask him/her:

How are you feeling right now? Are you sad? Offer words that they can connect to the feeling such as happy, sad, worried, anxious, scared, angry or frustrated.
Where are you feeling this emotion in your body? Is your heart racing or does your tummy feel tight?
What do you think caused you to feel this way? Help them to understand why they feel this way in order for her to get a better understanding as to how or why the feeling came about in the first place.

If our little one’s vocabulary is still developing, it may cause her to get more frustrated when you don’t understand what she’s trying to say to you. The use of an emotions chart works wonders in this as they can show you on the chart how they are feeling.

2. Establish their triggers

Do a bit of thinking as to what makes your child ‘act out’ or what situations she struggles to deal with and consider how your own behaviour could change to help her manage these situations more effectively. For example:

Does she cry or yell when you instruct her that it is now bedtime? Why not try a 5 minute warning before the time? Or better yet, a colour coded clock always seems to help as warning. Use the three colours of a traffic robot to colour in the last 15 minutes before bed time and highlight them to your little one every time it moves from green, to orange and finally to red (meaning bedtime).

3. Utilise what makes her happy

Identify and use the ways that your little one already uses to calm herself. Whether it be a bit of colouring, riding a bicycle or building puzzles. Whenever she gets upset, why not ask her if she’d perhaps want to do one of these activities to calm her down? Over time, these activities may turn into coping mechanisms for them.

4. Be present and understanding

When your child is feeling the pressure of her emotions getting the better of her, don’t just brush it off. Give her your full attention by focusing on her, listening to her, being patient with her and guiding her through the emotion through questions that help her manage the emotions effectively.

If they find you to be distracted, it could just make them feel even more out of control.

5. Utilise the help of others when needed

And finally, when you feel that you’re not coping (out of patience due to tiredness or work overload) rely on others. This not only helps you, but it also shows your child that there are many areas and ways of coping with a difficult situation, of which accepting help from others are one.

The above might be a lot to take in and patience is required throughout the entire process, but preempting and teaching your little one the basic coping skills will not only serve them throughout changes whilst they are little – it will also guide them throughout life as they build on these skills whilst growing up.

If you’re going through any changes right now or will be doing so in the near future and have anything to add to what I’ve shared in this post, please do comment below. It’s always great to share the knowledge amongst fellow moms and dads. In the end of the day, it takes a village to raise a child.

LOVE | Chantelle
xx

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