It’s hard enough to accept and embrace change, as an adult, can you imagine how complex and confusing it must be for a child? 2015 has been a big year of change for my boy – we moved house and he started grade one in January, only to be moved to a new school six months later!! Just before the transfer to a new school, I noticed a few behaviour changes such as clinginess, at first I thought he was just being a brat, because I had prepared him well, months in advance actually. It’s only when he cried and wanted to sleep in my bed the night before he started at the new school, that it hit me that this is a big deal for him. He has emotions, questions and real fears too, just like I do. I’m happy to report that he has settled in well and loves his new school, three weeks into the term.
This had me wondering how you can prepare a child for change, whether it’s a new house, new baby, new school, a divorce, or introducing a step-parent. I can attest to the fact that children adapt quickly and easily, but change is still a difficult concept for children to grasp and we should do everything in our power to help them.
Communicate: Understand that change has a significant impact for children. Talk about the upcoming changes as much as possible, as early as possible, but timing is everything! For example, three months is a looooong time for a three year old to grasp, but it can make an exciting countdown for a six year old.
Use your discretion, but preparing your little one is key. A little mind-set shift could be necessary here, for some of us. Growing up in a fairly middle-class black family home, things were very different, my feelings weren’t considered when my parents made decisions. Our parents would make changes and say “hayi suka, yini’abantwana, ni zoba right” meaning, “Nonsense, you’re kids, you’ll be fine”. I’m not saying you should make decisions in consultation with your kids, but I think you do need to communicate and prepare them accordingly, if and when the change will affect them in any way.
Put them at ease: explain the change to them in an age-appropriate way, that they will understand and keep as much of your routine unchanged as you can. I have made arrangements for my son to have play dates with his old friends for example, that way he doesn’t feel like he has completely lost “his brothers” as he calls them.
Details: give your child details to help them visualise the change and create understanding and familiarity. For example, if you’re moving house: describe the new house in detail or go and see it again with them, show them which room will be theirs and give them ideas of how you could decorate it for them and talk about the fun you could have in your new garden. My little man spent a full day at his new school about six weeks before joining. It made a huge difference, because although he was nervous about the change, he went in, knowing what to expect, and had made a few new friends already.
Check-in after the change: take the time listen to your child’s concerns and feedback, as you go along. Don’t just assume that they are fine. You know your child better than anyone else so don’t ignore the little details.
I’m noticing a trend here, this communication thing is popping up quite a lot hey?!
Looking forward to hearing your views on this one, please do leave your comments below.
Modern Zulu Mom