5 Steps to Help Your Child with Change:
When raising a family, nothing can throw you or your child for a loop more than a good transitioning moment.
Change is hard. Even for us grown ups who posses the cognitive ability to understand the what's, why's, and how's of a transition. For a child, the struggle is (even more) real. Learning to let go of something old & embrace the new, is made more difficult by an inability to fully understanding what's happening or that it's going to be okay. They may feel (very strongly) like they have very little control over any of it, including their emotions.
There are innumerable moments in a child's development from birth to young adult where they will need to adapt to change. Many come from their changing needs as they grow and develop. I call these DEVELOPMENTAL transitions. They may transition from a crib to a big kid bed; being breast/bottle fed to solid food; at home all day with one caregiver to school; being dependent on you for everything to autonomy and one day, complete independence. (That last one's a doozy for us parents too!)
There are also the DAILY transitions like moving from play to sleep, saying goodbye, or going from any activity to the next. Like snowflakes and fingerprint, every child is unique and will have there own way of reacting to change; however, there are some things to do or to keep in mind to smooth any transition:
1) Give plenty of age approximate verbal warnings & physical cues that a change is imminent. Ex: "We will be leaving in 5 min, that's 3 more times on the slide." Then help them count the turns.
2) No negotiating after time is up and do not continue to saying that it is. Instead take the child's hand & lead the way; start talking about what there is to look forward to (DO NOT BRIBE) but talk in the future because that's where you want them to be. IE, I wonder what Dad's been doing while we were gone, let's go see.
3) Pick strategies that are win/win. Silly can help. Ask do you want to skip, jump, or fly to the car? If you're ignored, then pick them up laughing & fly them to the car or bring out your child's competitive nature and start jumping to the car yourself and call back, "Yay, I'm winning!" This is a win/win because it gives your child a choice & feeds her autonomy but you're not under-minding your authority since you're not negotiating about the part that's non-negotiable (not the what & when, but the how). ;)
4) Sometimes the drama is unavoidable. Especially with a toddler or a teenager. Avoid cajoling or giving in, take some deep breathes and remain calm. Limit the amount of time and attention you give any theatrics and use a little redirection- turn on the radio; tell a funny or touching story where change was hard for you; put a snack down beside them.
5) Keep perspective. No one likes upsetting their kid. It makes us feel bad and their responses may be embarrassing. However, change is an unavoidable part of life. By remaining calm and focused you are showing them how to. What a life-changing gift to give our children, the skill to face changes in a happy and healthy manner!
Your Family Guru LLC