Coping with change at any age is difficult; this is amplified for young and impressionable children. Whether children are going through transitions due to divorce, moving out, a family death or any other major life factor, it is vital for parents and other adults to help them cope and adjust, for the sake of their well-being.
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Listen to your child. Amid the chaos of transitions, it is common for children to feel lost and ignored. It is important to go out of your way to remember to listen to your child and to reassure him that you acknowledge his feelings and that you treat them seriously. Have a discussion with your child and tell him that it is perfectly normal and acceptable for him to feel lost, hurt, angry, lonely and confused by all of the new changes in his life. Be there for your child, both physically and emotionally. Keep the dialogue honest and open.
Spend quality time together. Children tend to feel like less of a priority when their lives are in a state of upheaval. It is important for you to remember that children need nurturing and attention from you. Take time out of the busy day to laugh and enjoy life with your child, whether you read her a storybook before bedtime or take her on long walks with you around the park every weekend.
Keep some routines. Children thrive in environments of stability and predictability. When children lack these things, they tend to feel anxiety. Despite whatever difficulties you might be experiencing in life, it is essential to try to maintain some type of normalcy for your children, whether by keeping the same schedule as before or by allowing them to participate in the same activities (such as, sports or painting).
Stay a good parent. If you feel sorry for your child for all of the transitions going on, it can be very easy to get into the pitfall of losing focus and stop being a parent. You might go soft on him by allowing him to stay up significantly later than his normal bedtime or by allowing him to eat more junk food. It is very important to maintain boundaries in your child's life and to provide the same expectations and discipline that you did before.
Avoid seeking emotional support from your child. Some parents make the mistake of seeking emotional support from their children during tough parts of life. This can be problematic because it is vital for your child to see you as strong and happy. Children can feel stressed out when they are aware that their parent is unhappy. Look elsewhere for support (counsellor, friends, other family members).
Protect your child from conflict. Transitions often bring conflict, especially when it comes to a situation like divorce. When a child is undergoing a serious life change, it is crucial for you to do whatever it takes to make the process as smooth and easy as possible for your child. Never allow your child to witness you fighting with another person. This can only lead to severe emotional trauma and potential damage for a child.
Talk about the good sides of the transition. Show your child the good aspects of the life change, if possible. If you are going through a move, talk about how much bigger your new house will be, or how since it's much closer to your work you will be able to spend much more time with her.
Tips and warnings
- It is important to give children time to deal with transitions. Allow them time to prepare for life changes; never spring something on them at the last minute. The more preparation they have, the better suited they will be to adjust and thrive.
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