Week 5 - HELPING KIDS NAVIGATE CHANGE
Change can be very hard for kids. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to help kids navigate change with minimal impact. This lesson will show us how!
Any time there is a CHANGE in life, no matter how small, there is a reciprocal effect on our BODIES, MINDS, and EMOTIONS.
Sometimes, especially in children, change can elicit responses which seem UNFITTING for the situation. For example, sometimes ANGER will be the outward expression, but SADNESS is the core emotion.
In this lesson, we will look at how to help kids navigate CHANGE and PROCESS emotions in a healthy way.
The biggest thing to UNDERSTAND when it comes to kids and emotions during CHANGE is that big emotions are NORMAL. There is nothing wrong with experiencing EMOTIONS, both big and small. What we will try to do is HELP kids navigate these emotions and deal with them in HEALTHY ways.
Tantrums and outbursts are also NORMAL when children don’t have the words or EMOTIONAL MATURITY to talk about what they are FEELING.
STEPS TO NAVIGATING CHANGE
While change may never be a PASSIVE thing for kids, we can EASE transitions in kids lives by following these SIMPLE but necessary steps to CHANGE…
CONCENTRATE ON STABILITY
Research has show that children NEED stability in their lives as much as they need PROTECTION and NURTURING.
The CDC defines STABILITY as, “the degree of predictability and consistency in a child’s social, emotional, and physical ENVIRONMENT”.
This means, as much as possible, parents should try to PROVIDE predictability and ROUTINE in their child’s everyday life.
Sometimes in life, CHANGE is inevitable; it cannot be avoided. However, there are things that parents can HELP children focus on when change becomes NECESSARY.
When any CHANGE is happening in a child’s life, keep as PREDICTABLE as possible.
Some examples include:
HELP BUILD VOCABULARY
Helping children NAME their emotions is an empowering way to help children TAME their emotions
By understanding their FEELINGS, they can use their words instead of acting out AND they can utilize STRATEGIES to help calm that emotion
To START this process, however, parents have to take an ACTIVE role in TEACHING their children “EMOTIONAL VOCABULARY”
HELP BUILD VOCABULARY
A great starting resource for parents to use in building their child’s emotional vocabular is:
Additionally, using ”FEELING CHARTS” such as the one on the next slide can help young children IDENTIFY and RECOGNIZE a variety of EMOTIONS instead of just happy, sad, and mad.
HELP BUILD VOCABULARY
As previously mentioned, sometimes CHANGE is unavoidable. When CHANGE is coming, the most IMPORTANT thing you can do for a child is immediately start preparing the child for that CHANGE
Don’t beat around the bush – be STRAIGHTFORWARD and DIRECT with the child about the change coming and why the change is necessary (as age appropriate)
Point out what will be the SAME – go back to the first point in this presentation…keeping as much the same as possible can help EASE your child’s anxiety and give them something “STABLE” to dwell on
Answer questions – your child will likely have A LOT of questions about the UPCOMING change. Your child may have A LOT of questions at once or they may ask a few questions several days/weeks in a row. Be PATIENT and answer the questions as THOROUGHLY as possible.
Anticipate emotional reactions – your child will likely exhibit a variety of ATYPICAL behaviors as a result of ANXIETY. Be prepared for emotional OUTBURSTS and behaviors that are out of character for the child. Find ways to HELP your child calm down and give GRACE as they navigate this new season in their life
As much as possible, ALLOWING a child to make as many CHOICES as is appropriate concerning the change can help ease anxiety and give children a sense of CONTROL in a situation where they FEEL out of control.
For example, if you are moving, let the child be part of the new house search or let the child DECIDE how to arrange his/her room. If you are switching your job schedule, ask your child some things he/she would LIKE to build into your NEW schedule. If changing daycares/schools, ask your child 1 thing they would LIKE to have at their new daycare/school
While BIG choices may not always be appropriate, allowing your child to make even the smallest CHOICES has proven to be BENEFICIAL to children when walking through change
There are MANY other benefits to allowing your child to have age appropriate choices concerning his/her LIFE…check out this article for a quick overview of the POWER of choice for a child
EXPERIENCE THE GOOD IN THE NEW
Learning to “dance in the rain” is a GOOD metaphor to keep in mind when NAVIGATING change with your children
Even though things about the ”NEW” may not be comfortable or familiar, there is always an ELEMENT of good
Sometimes the “GOOD” is very small, but it is always there…even if the good is SIMPLY that you and your child woke up to see another day
Change is HARD. Being a CHILD and navigating change is even harder. However, it is our JOB as parents to help guide our children through change in a HEALTHY way by both teaching and modeling healthy behavior. Ask God to give you WISDOM – He will gently guide you as your GUIDE your child.
Check out this video for some more great information on helping kids deal with change:
Think about one change that you KNOW is coming or ANTICIPATE may come sometime in your child’s life. Using the steps provided in this week’s MATERIAL, write out a plan for helping your child/children navigate that CHANGE. (If you can’t think of a change that may be coming, make one up)
Highlands Connect Workbook
Follow along with the download printable PDF or purchase full color spiral version.