Change affects everyone differently. As adults, we learn how to manage our feelings over time. But children don’t always find it easy to understand or express their emotions.
Sometimes this will impact on how they behave. They may need some guidance to process what’s happening. As a parent or carer, you can help them learn to cope with these new situations.
Types of change that may affect your child or impact their behaviour include:
Read age–appropriate books on changes. Some useful books include:
Young children may not know what they’re feeling, but you can help them identify the emotion by labelling it.
Saying things like, “You seem sad/ nervous/ scared/ angry/ excited” can help. Tell them that it’s OK to feel like that. Explain that you understand and that you love them.
If your child has lost someone close to them, you can also read advice on how to help your child when someone dies.
When children go through a major life change, you can help them by connecting the two phases of their lives.
Try making a book with photos and drawings. For example, if you’re moving house, stick in pictures of their old bedroom and their new bedroom. Look through the book and talk about the positives of the new house and how exciting it is to be moving. You can also talk about the sadness of leaving the old house.
Children may imagine the worst when facing the fear of the unknown. They might say things like, “You’ll love the new baby more than me” or “No one will be friends with me”.
Gently challenge your child if you hear them say things like this. Help them visualise a realistic picture of the new situation. For children who can’t or struggle to express how they feel, try to imagine the concerns and worries they might have. Then talk to them about the change in a positive and exciting way.
Learning the tools to cope with and bounce back from stressful situations is an important life skill. This is also known as resilience. It’s something we can build on throughout our lives. You can help this process by show your child positive ways to deal with stress through your own actions, and make them feel loved. Or read our tips on resilience for more ideas.
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