Supporting your child through change.

Change is a part of life. When we prepare and equip our children for change, we are not only setting them up well for the future, but we are also creating a peaceful environment in the present – one that supports both parent AND child. There are changes we cannot predict, but as parents there are several changes we can see coming. Anything that alters the child’s daily/weekly rhythm is something that can be labeled as “change” – and there are things we can do as parents to prepare our children, and to ease our children’s experience. When we do what we can to offer support and harmony to the child inside a fluctuating environment, it gives the child a sense of security; it promotes calm in the child and in the home; and it builds trust for the child, offering a sense that when life has a curve, “I will be o.k., and I will be cared for”. The bonus of this is that you, the parent, will also feel better inside the changing environment as you offer your child this support. Your nurture and leadership combined with the child’s peace (or movement toward it) will create confidence and well-being for you – which will begin a cycle that compounds a sense of stability through the change.

You can ease and support your child through change by doing a few simple things:

1) Talk with your child about what will change, making sure to listen to your child’s feelings.

Begin by talking with your child about the changes he or she will experience, before they occur if at all possible. Even small change, like an earlier or later bedtime, an earlier wake-up time, getting back into the rhythm of a school day after a break (or a weekend!), and meeting new people can come with changes that can be hard for the young child. Bigger changes, like moving to a new house or a new city, a new school, or a change in the family dynamic (birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption, etc.) will bring with them a huge adjustment for your child.

You can share with your child what is changing, and how the change will affect your child’s daily life. Make sure that you create enough time and space for the conversation, so that you can adequately answer questions, respond to the child’s feelings, and communicate that you are and will be present with the child through the entire change.

2) Involve your child in the change.

Give your child an opportunity to voice ideas about how to best approach the change. This will give him or her a sense of control over the uncontrollable, and produce a proactive approach, instead of a victimized attitude.

For example:

If Grandma will be coming to visit, let your child pick flowers or a small gift to leave by her bedside.

If you are moving to a new house, let your child get involved in the process as you answer the questions of what will go where in the new space.

If the bedtime routine is going to change, give your child a choice between two new options, instead of dictating only one.

3) Take action to ease your child’s experience of the changes.

Here are some ideas for how to support your child during seasons of change:

-Begin the change early: if your child’s bedtime will need to be 1 or 2 hours earlier soon, then begin backing up his or her bedtime by 15 or 30 minutes every night, to ease the whole family into it.
-Offer your child extra attention and physical nurturing: hold your child to read a story, give your child a back rub, go outside and play a game together, or rock your child. (Even your big kid may love to feel this extra reassurance!)
-Give your child an oatmeal bath: fill an old sock with dry oatmeal and fit it over the bathtub nozzle, running the bath water through it. The water will turn a milky brown color. Then resume a normal bath time routine. This is extremely comforting and nurturing for your child during times of stress or change.
-Put lavender oil inside your child’s pillow case: pick up some Lavender Essential Oil at your local health food store and put one or two drops on a cotton ball. Place the cotton inside your child’s pillow case at night to soothe him or her during sleep.
-Support your child with food: make grounding meals – beans with sea salt, brown rice, & dark leafy greens (like spinach, kale or collard greens), as an example – that are simple to digest and deeply nourishing. During times of change, sea salt is a simple way to offer some earthy stability to your child’s body. Avoid spicy food, highly processed food, and sugar.
-Slow down: try to embrace the changes without rushing through them. If your child feels rushed, then his or her experience of stress will heighten. Practice smiling, singing, and joking through moments that could become tense (i.e. getting in the car in the morning).
-Sing a song: any song. Children relax (parents do too!) when someone is humming or singing through the routines of bathtime, teeth brushing, dressing, commuting, etc.
-Take a deep breath: giving yourself even one deep breath between morning or evening tasks can relax everybody.
-Get creative: ask yourself “How could I be present with my child right now? What does my child need to feel supported?” The answer might surprise you with its simplicity.

This list is meant as inspiration. Incorporate only the ideas that feel best to you, and use your creativity to come up with what will work best for your family.

And as the change begins, watch for behavioral cues that your child needs some additional support: if your child becomes clingy, emotional, easily distressed, or you see changes in sleep pattern or in eating pattern, then you may love to offer some additional help. If the change has been a traumatic one, consider a form of therapy that feels right for your child: art, equestrian, dance, chiropractic, or counseling.

As you approach the change with the awareness that you and your child will experience adjustment, you will be ready to ease both yourself and your child into it. Hopefully through embracing and supporting yourself and your child through the change, you and your child will have a settled feeling, which promotes well-being and joy.

Think of how you feel during your very favorite moments you experience with your child. That feeling is what you are both headed toward – both through the experience of the coming change, and after it, when all is in a new normal.