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How to Help Your Child Navigate Change

October 17, 2019
by Becky Ferrigno

October is a month of changes. The weather changes, the trees change, the days get shorter and the continual progression of holidays begins. It is a lot for little minds and bodies to take in and process. As a result, October can be a difficult month for some kiddos, including my own.

Let me begin by saying that my children’s great dislike of change is hereditary. I HATE change. As an adult, I have learned how to navigate life’s unexpected twists and turns. But when it came to teaching my children how to be flexible, it took me a little time to come up with a strategy that works.

Creating Predictable Structure

We keep a large wipeboard in our living room. On one half are written our house rules. These are statements that outline how we act in our house. We use calm quiet voices, we help each other, we take turns, etc. At least once a year we have a family meeting to decide if we need to make any changes to our rules. Once a season, we sit down as a family and review the rules we created to make sure everyone is on the same page. This family meeting reminds the kids that they are part of the fabric of what makes our family unique. We are not handing them a set of rules to follow but instead encouraging them to help construct our family dynamic.

On the other half of the wipeboard is our schedule for the week. We sitting down on Sundays with the kids and write out our week at a glance. We do it on a wipeboard so that we can make changes as needed. Another idea is to make cards with either pictures of your weekly activities or words, if your children are older, that you can attach to a board. The benefit to having the cards is that kids can actually physically see how time can be flexible as you rearrange your day.

This wipeboard is a lifesaver. As we prepare for winter, we create a list of fun “snow day” bonus activities. This helps my rigid thinker to mentally prepare for an unexpected day off. Without this preparation, snow days are HORRIBLE!

Practicing Flexibility

Another way to help your child navigate change is to teach them how to be flexible. In times of crisis or even during every day mishaps, our children respond to how our voice sounds and our body reacts. When they spill milk and we leap from the table and start yelling “Quick! Get Towels!” they learn that spills are bad. When the adults in their lives, take a breath and handle life’s up and downs in a calm, cool tone, we are teaching them that it is OK to be flexible. Stuck in traffic? Talk about how lucky we are to have the time with each other to talk and listen to music. A road is closed? That’s a chance for an adventure!

October, the season of change, is a perfect time to practice this flexibility. New clothes can be an adventure. Going to sleep in the dark is an opportunity to see the stars from their bed! A random early day of snow can be an opportunity to compare the patterns our shoes make when we walk.

Keep It Real

But in the end, the most important thing you can do to help your child is to honor their frustration. When the world is shifting and they are upset, acknowledge that it is a reasonable feeling. That it is OK to be sad or mad. Just make sure they understand that it is their goal to not let that sadness take over and prevent them from enjoying the fun that ended up happening instead. This is the hardest piece of all.

Hopefully these few tips will help you navigate your season of transition with ease! If you have any ideas how to help your kiddos navigate change, please leave them in the comments below!

Until next week,