Life is never static. It is dynamic and constantly changing with the rapid advancement of technology, ease of access to information, and increasing interconnectedness of the world. Sometimes, all this change can be overwhelming, especially for our children.
Most people prefer a certain level of “sameness” because it makes us feel more at ease. But occasionally, it becomes unreasonable or impossible to maintain this predictability and routine. This can be a big problem for children in particular, since they aren’t able to process changes yet—often kids will react negatively to these changes.
So for big changes, such as the birth of a sibling or moving to a new city, how can you help your family deal with them? Here are a few tips.
Have proper and honest discussions
Often, the reason why big changes are overwhelming is that they seem to be very sudden. Everything appears to be moving too fast and there is no time to stop, think, and digest the changes. But this stress can be somewhat mitigated by preparing as much as you can beforehand. This usually involves having open talks with your family.
Gathering your family around to talk through the expected changes is so important. Whether that change is that you and your partner are splitting up, a move to a new house, a change of career, or a loss of a family member, you need to talk with those affected.
For example, if you will be relocating due to work, inform your children well in advance. This gives them time to ruminate on the news. Let them ask any questions and answer honestly. Get their opinions on the situation and even take their suggestions. After all, their lives will be affected so they should have a say in the changes.
Celebrate the positives
Although it can be incredibly tough, you need to focus on the positives of the change. Spinning things in a positive way will really help everyone manage change and can even reverse people’s initial negative thoughts of the change.
It might be very difficult to find the positives of your situation, do your best to find the silver linings, no matter how small they are. For example, moving house, to your kids, might seem like they are leaving their friends. However, it is an exciting opportunity to explore a new area and meet new people.
Also, a job change might mean you are financially unstable for a while or you might feel lost. But a new career is also a new challenge for you. It could even be the perfect time for you to pursue a new path—perhaps something that you are more passionate about.
Expect some regression
This usually applies to your children, but it can even affect some adults. Whenever there is a big change, people might regress to earlier or worse behaviours. For example, your child might revert to having accidents, insisting on sleeping in your bed, or develop picky eating habits.
Often, this regression is simply a phase and will pass over time. However, to not feel stressed about this, you need to accept that this regression is a possibility in the first place. Returning to these bad behaviours is completely normal and you should understand that. Just be patient and be as supportive as you can.
Usually, regression in adults takes the form of lethargy and less desire to socialise. The important things for combatting this is to focus on the positives as mentioned above, set clear goals, develop concrete problem-solving plans, and asking for assistance.
Get back into your rhythm ASAP
With big changes, usually the most pressing issue is the unknown. Often, there is no tangible end goal to keep in mind and this causes us to be stressed. To fight the fear of the unknown, it really helps to re-establish some form of routine or another. This regularity doesn’t just have to be big events such as an annual vacation, it can even be the little things like having a proper morning routine or time to exercise.
Routine is very important for your children after you’re family has just been through a great deal of upheaval. For example, after you have completed your move, try to restore some predictability as soon as you can. If you have a baby, make sure you keep their meal and sleep routines the same. If it is a ritual in your family, take your kids to the park for some outdoor playtime or sign them up to sports teams or clubs.
By doing things that you are used to, you’ll feel much more comfortable even in the face of change and uncertainty. Routine and predictability help us feel more relaxed and confident, which is invaluable when there are big changes in your life.