Children and Change

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Change is often difficult for adults and children. As difficult as change can be, it also provides parents and caregivers an opportunity to be an emotional partner for children and support their resilience. Saying "hello" and "goodbye," switching up a routine, or losing a tooth - all of these events are a chance to understand children's emotional lives. 

So how can you support children through change? Start with understanding your own feelings about change. Often how we deal with change impacts how we support our children during change. Be aware of your own feelings and explore the developmentally appropriate tips below: 

Infants and Toddlers 

  • Be mindful of the emotional milestones that children go through (specifically attachment, object permanence, stranger anxiety, and psychological home base). For more on the emotional milestones, click here.
  • Children this age look at their trusted adults (you) for clues on how to interact or how to respond. Check yourself and your own emotions when responding to change.

  • Allow children to adjust to new people at their own pace, and also give them preparation ahead of time if possible.

  • Play peek-a-boo and other "hiding" games.

Preschool Age

  • Connect to what children already know and are interested in. For example, talk about change during the seasons (temperature, clothing, weather) and ask them to talk about change they have experienced (moving to a new classroom, getting a new sibling, or moving to a new house).
  • Give children the opportunity to talk about how they feel and help them label their emotions.

  • Incorporate countdowns/timelines (countdown chains are a great visual).

  • Allow opportunities for children to role play, write, or draw about change. This gives children the opportunity to prepare, explore their feelings, and ask questions.

  • Read books about change (i.e. Say Hello, The Hello, Goodbye Window, or Changes, Changes).

Change can be hard for anyone, but being able to go through changes in the context of a supportive and nurturing relationship builds resilience. 

Post by Faosat Adelani, Rachel Dixon, and Jessica Sims (part of the Program Team at our lab school University City Children's Center