(Written by Kate Simmons) Even as adults, we all know that change is hard. Think of how many jobs or relationships you were stuck with far longer than you should have simply because it was difficult to make a big change in your life. For kids, it is even tougher. Even if you did not want to move to a different city because of your job, you ultimately made the choice to do it.
No one asks kids where they want to move or if they want their parents to divorce or if they would like a new sibling. Children are far more vulnerable to the effects of change because they are still developing emotionally and because they often have no say in the major events that shape their lives. Below we offer positive parenting skills to help children deal with the difficult, but often necessary, transitions that affect them.
- Talk to Them
Kids can be scarred emotionally when parents keep them completely out of the loop about major transitions. Refusing to talk about a problem, whether it is divorce, separation, financial issues, or a death in the family, will not keep your child from experiencing its consequences. Families who bottle everything up inside may think they are providing a safety net for kids, but you may be teaching them that it is not OK to have emotions. Children need a safe atmosphere to talk about changes. If a beloved grandparent or pet has passed away, do not assume that talking about it will only make a child sad. Opening up such topics for discussion will allow your child to work through difficult problems.
- Let Them Talk
Although this may seem quite similar to talking to a child, it is just the opposite. Sometimes we can explain difficult situations, like divorces or moves, to a child and think that we have it covered. Often, no one asks the child in question how such changes make him or her feel. Especially if a child expresses negative opinions (they do not want to move or are very upset about switching schools), they are told to stop complaining or are required to remain silent about adult issues. Even if it means letting a child have a few tantrums or a good cry, you need to let children tell their side of the story. Being allowed to express their opinion will give a child more freedom to deal with change.
- Seek Therapy
Family therapy and individual therapy can both help a child understand changes in his or her life and provide them with a healthy, positive environment in which to express their concerns. Sending your child to therapy does not mean that they have a problem or that you have failed as a parent. Sometimes children just need some professional help to deal with a difficult transition. This is especially true with major changes, like divorce and the death of a friend or family member.
- Change Your Attitude
If you are a control freak who needs everyone to go along with your plan and for everything to go smoothly, that doesn’t really work once there are kids in the picture. Whether it is a new job with different hours or the arrival of a sibling, changes that seem positive to you might seem like the end of the world for a youngster. Change management training can help you adapt your own attitude to better deal with life transitions and the minor or major emotional crises that come with them.
Kate Simmons is a freelance writer and aspiring family counselor. She knows it’s never too early to start training your “life skills”, and that embracing change is one of the most important things you could teach your kids.