Teaching Toddlers: Accepting Change
It’s human nature to thrive and fall into a rhythm. To follow a routine and make things a habit. I know for me, personally, I do best when I have an agenda for the day and have a routine for the day. I don’t know if I could manage the chaos that comes with not having a schedule in place, especially with three very active kids.
If that’s my thing– to be organized and have a routine, then I guess it goes without saying that my kids excel with a routine, too.
But we recently broke that routine. We sold stuff, packed stuff, and rolled out. You can read about it here.
For us, that meant a lot of rule-breaking. A lot of accepting the new life and change. Which, honestly, as an adult, it was hard. You can only imagine how hard it was for our kids!
Messed up nap times, not eating on time, and just not having the comforts of home. It can lead to kids being clingy, moody, anxious, and even just down right angry. It can lead to regressions (for us, it was potty), and even new anxiety (for the boys, stranger danger became tough!) can develop.
Adjusting to a big change, whether it be a divorce, a death, or just a move like us, can take a toll on children. Accepting change is hard to do, even as an adult sometimes. The past few weeks, we have learned and figured out some coping mechanisms and ways to help our children accept change.
Top 3 Tips for Helping Children Accept Change
Give them warning and help them mentally prepare
Let them know that change is coming. Even something simple as leaving the play ground. To avoid a melt down and help them understand there is change coming, give kids a warning. “Hey, you have five more minutes on the play ground.” This sets an expectation that Event 1 is ending and Event 2 will follow. For example, are you switching from a crib to a toddler bed? Let them know this change is coming. Set up the toddler bed in the morning after they wake up. Let them watch you set it up. Once it’s set up, let them play in their room as much as possible so they are exposed to that toddler bed. Let them know that they will be sleeping in said bed. When nap time or bed time comes around, they know and are mentally prepared to sleep in the new bed.
Stick to the normal routine as much as possible
It’s hard, honestly, but try and stick to the normal routine as much as possible. Bed time, nap time, meals – they should all stay as consistent as possible. The idea behind this is that it gives kids less reason to fear change (some things will still be the same) and less reason to have a meltdown. Not to mention that humans just have an internal clock for when they should eat, drink, use the bathroom, and sleep.
Talk through it
Make yourself available for any tears that need to be wiped. Help them understand what happens next, answer questions, be comforting.When you talk about the change and let them know what to expect, they’re not caught off-guard completely. They need to know that you’ll be there for them and provide comfort when they don’t know what else to expect. Let them know the little things like where you’re going, how long it will take, why dinner is not at a table and will be in the car, who is going to be giving a bath today, where mommy is going to be later, etc. Level-setting as much as possible helps ease the anxiety brought on by change.
Throughout the month, I’ll be reviewing some tools that point you to resources that we’re using to help our kids deal with change. Make sure you subscribe and stay tuned for all the fun tools to come.