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5 Simple Strategies to Help Kids Dealing with Change

by | Sep 26, 2021

We all face changes in life; that’s the essence of being alive. But how we approach dealing with change when it occurs can make a huge difference in who we are after the change happens.

For me, routines and a plan for each day provide me with a sense of order to help me feel in control when minor change occurs. But sometimes life-changing events happen where I need support, time to process, and lots of help.

Life for our kids is not much different, except for the fact that they face more changes far more frequently than we do as adults.

Most kids, particularly when they are small, don’t have a process for putting any order in their lives … the world just happens. And their world is full of change every day!

Every day they are learning new concepts, meeting new friends, and in many cases, seeing and understanding things for the first time. Their minds are developing, their feelings evolving, and their reactions changing.

While our kids are learning, growing, and changing every day, they too are impacted by major changes.

Dealing with Change Is a Life Lesson for Kids

When major changes happen, our children need our help, our support, our time, and our willingness to stop, listen, and focus our attention on them and what they are seeing, feeling, and wanting to understand and put order to.

The addition of a new baby to the family, changing schools or teachers, moving homes, the death of a pet, a divorce, or the death of a family member can all have a profound impact on our kids.

Like adults, some kids deal with change easier than others. Some express their feelings openly and, therefore, are much easier to read and help. Others pull back. They might have a fear of change and need extra help opening up.

No matter what type of child you have, knowing that big changes are hard is the first step in making sure you’re ready to help your kid understand and learn to deal with change, learn to adapt to what’s thrust on them, and transition to what life is going forward because of the change that’s occurred.

Simple Strategies to Help Kids Dealing with Change

Dealing with change in a healthy way is one of the best life skills we can support our children to develop. It not only enables them to cope with major life changes but also helps them adapt to make their lives more fulfilling and see the right way forward.

Here are five simple strategies to help kids dealing with change:

dealing with change - keep a routine

01 – Keep a Routine

We know that the better we feel in control during the day, the better we can deal with change. Having a consistent time for waking up, eating breakfast, going to school, doing homework, play, friends, etc., AND going to bed makes a huge difference.

When something happens that may impact that routine, do what you can to help keep their individual and the family routines in place.

dealing with change - listen

02 – Listen with Empathy

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and it’s really hard to listen while we’re talking! Have you ever been in a conversation and thought, “Okay, I’m being quiet and listening but wish they would just get to the point?” That’s not listening!

The key to listening is to hear what’s being said and not judging what’s being said. As you listen, really hear the words and be ready to respond back to them with almost the exact words they are using.

dealing with change - Let them express their emotions

03 – Let Them Express Their Emotions

Listening to what our kids say is about more than just the facts. It’s also a way for them to share their feelings.

As a technical engineering person, I love to live in the world of facts and details. But I’ve also learned to listen and sense the emotions being expressed because the emotional issues can have an equal if not greater impact on someone’s behavior than the facts.

When we’re willing to listen without judgment, the emotions will come out and allow us to help them deal with the real issues.

dealing with change - maintain trust

04 – Maintain Trust

From the moment our children are born, they trust us. As they mature, two things happen. First, they watch us to see what we do, and they model it, good or bad.

Second, they look for consistency in what we say and do. If we set a time for an activity and adhere to that time, trust builds. If we don’t, then the bond of trust weakens.

If we say we will do something and then don’t, trust is put at risk because it means we really don’t mean what we say. In times of change, our kids really want to trust what we say and do.

When we’re willing to listen without judgment, the emotions will come out and allow us to help them deal with the real issues.

dealing with change - share what to expect

05 – Share What to Expect

While we can’t always anticipate what will happen in the future, as parents, we do know what to expect when a major transition or change occurs.

Taking the time to share what to expect with our kids takes the mystery out of what the future holds. If we don’t know what to expect, share that too.

It’s one way kids begin to understand that the future is generally unknown but that you will always be there with and for them.

Dealing with Change Will Become Easier

While it can be difficult, having solid strategies for dealing with change is enormously beneficial for families and becomes an empowering life skill for kids.

Just remember that you’re not alone (everyone goes through change) and feeling confused or upset is normal. I know these two bits of wisdom as fact because I’ve been through A LOT of change in my life.

Having a plan in place, though, and knowing how to navigate that change can make a huge difference in not only how we deal with change but also how our children deal with it. The more we use the five strategies to help our children deal with change, the less confused and upset they will feel … and the happier everyone will be!

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Rick Stephens

Rick Stephens is a co-founder of Raising Families. With 33 years of experience as a top-level executive at The Boeing Company and having raised four children of his own, he is able to support parents and grandparents by incorporating his knowledge of business, leadership, and complex systems into the family setting. In his “free time” Rick enjoys road biking, scuba diving, visiting his grandkids, and generally trying to figure out which time zone he’s in this week. Read full bio >>