Just like adults, children and youth will experience a myriad of changes throughout their lives. Some of these changes will be with you – moving to a new town, losing a family member - or without you – starting at a new school, a friend moving away, etc. Regardless of what the change is, it is important that you help your child throughout this potentially difficult transition.
While it may seem easy to help your child, there are a few important things to keep in mind to help minimize the impact of life changes.
Give Them Warning
Discussing coming changes with your child will allow them to prepare. They might not be able to fully understand the changes and they will still worry about them. That is completely normal. Use this time to help get them adjusted to the change slowly.
Of course, it is not always possible to get ahead of some changes. But when you can, the change will be much easier on them and impact their mental health a lot less.
Just because something in your child’s life is changing doesn’t mean everything has to. One of the best ways to assist your child is to try and keep their routines as normal as possible. If it is not necessary, don’t add on other changes that can further disrupt their day to day life.
Children and youth are most comfortable when they can predict things. They like to be able to understand why things are happening and are happiest when there is minimal disruption to their sense of normal.
During times of change, do your best to keep as much of your child’s routine the same.
Make Time for Them
Your child’s reaction to a life change could range from curious to depressed. Don’t assume that they will come to you without prompting or that they won’t need to talk with someone about the change.
Your child may ask you some questions. This should be encouraged, even prompted by the parents. They might repeat some questions that were asked before, but don’t become annoyed with your child when this happens. Answer their questions and feel free to ask them questions. It is important to make sure that they understand what is happening.
Your child might also go through a period of grieving. Grieving does not just follow the loss of a loved one. It might come after moving to a new town, getting a new sibling, or adjusting to a new budget that they might not understand. Be open to their grieving and emphasize the positive aspects that come about from life changes. Make sure you listen. Even if the change is minor, it might have a massive impact on your child.
The most important thing you can do for your child is to be honest. Don’t be blunt, but don’t lie to them. Your child trusts you and it is important to reinforce this trust, especially when your child is at their most vulnerable.
Explain exactly what is happening and what this change means. Your child can only process the change and ask appropriate questions if they understand what is going in their life. Without your help, they might not be able to understand it. With your help and your honesty, they can get through this change in a healthy way.
Going through a life change, whether small or dramatic, can be a challenge for both you and your child. It has the potential to strain your relationship and have a lasting impact on your child. If you approach these life changes appropriately, you can minimize the impact that it might have on you and your family!