4 Things to Remember When Your Kids are Facing Change
One thing most of us have experienced in the last year and a half in BIG ways is change. Oh man, that word is heavy and probably triggers a lot of emotions for many people. As a kid, I moved around a lot, so change was a very normal way of life for me, and it oddly provided a sense of comfort knowing a ‘fresh start’ was coming. However, I married a man that was in the same school his whole life and his parents still live in the house he grew up in (I had no idea people did that!), so change feels a lot less comforting for him. Change is a fairly normal part of life to some degree, and it is definitely something that can shape you. Recently our family experienced a big change when we moved across state lines so my husband could take a new job. The pending transition didn’t scare me too much, but being a mom to three young kids who don’t handle new lunchboxes well, much less a new home, I’ve had to immerse myself in ways to help them adjust to big changes, even if just in little ways. Here are four things I am preaching to myself on the daily:
Talk about it.
My kids are only 4, 3, and 2, so it would be easy for me to try and gloss over the events of our life and just hope they don’t notice, but instead, we’ve tried to just keep talking about the whole process as simply and honestly as we can for their little minds. They ask a lot of questions (sometimes they are even on topic), so we’re figuring out how to answer those questions without feeling frustrated because we’ve already told them, or without being discouraged by their lack of understanding. Part of me wants to just change the subject and distract them with Netflix, and while we are watching a little more tv in this season of transition, I know that isn’t very productive in helping them process the change. Whether your change is moving to a whole new state or just a new routine because summer break is here, take some time to talk about it. It may not click right away, but pieces of it eventually will, and it will seem less overwhelming for everyone.
Keep something the same.
We are in-between homes currently and living with good ol’ mom and dad before we move into the home that will carry us through this next season. Most of all of our belongings are still in boxes - we are pulling our clothes out of suitcases and our shoes out of Rubbermaids, but we wanted our kids to have some of their favorite items close and accessible to make it feel a little more like home. Our son’s mattress may be on the floor, but his bedding is still faithful Paw Patrol. Our girls may have 372 Beanie Babies they can choose from now (yes…my parents kept my collection even though we never saw the return on that investment), but they still have their bedtime companions they’ve had since they were babies. If you’ve got a big change on the horizon, like a new baby or potty-training, see what doesn’t have to change as well, to give your little ones something they feel is safe.
Patience, patience, and more patience.
My life has changed drastically, but my adult-brain can reasonably assess the situation (most days). I know that technology means I can still access my old friends easily. I know that I will eventually create new community. I know that I will gain a new routine in time. I know I have dealt with change before and survived, and I can do it again. But my kids aren’t quite to this point yet…I mean it’s only been 6 months since they stopped losing their minds when the water drained from the tub because they thought it was gone forever. Because of this missing element of reasoning in their brains, their reactions to their worlds being completely turned upside down are also not reasonable. I have to remind myself that when I think I’ve poured out enough patience, pour out more. When your little one’s throwing a massive tantrum, or your once potty-trained preschooler is now regressing because you just bought a new house or rearranged room assignments, try to find even more patience for those unreasonable moments - as hard as it is, I’ve never regretted having more patience.
Make being sad OK.
I’ve cried a lot since we left what I considered my hometown. It wasn’t anywhere near where I grew up, but it was where we had grown into a family. The home we left was where we had brought all of our babies home to either from the hospital or from the courthouse. I have felt the loss deeply, and sometimes I feel that by myself or with my husband, but other times I let my kids see it too, because I know they feel the loss deeply as well. We have a lot about a new season to be excited about and thankful for, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t grieve the close of a chapter. They may not fully understand that they are angry about their cup being empty because they are sad about not seeing their friends, or that they are screaming about a dropped cookie because they are missing their old school, but the more they can see that sadness is a completely ‘ok’ emotion, the more we can work through it. I am all for walking it out or rubbing some dirt on it, but during a big life change, it probably isn’t the best method. Right now we are giving extra snuggles, extra kisses, and even extra band-aids, because the boo-boos may not be real, but the feelings definitely are.
Our kiddos will all experience some amount of change in their younger years – new baby, room shift, school breaking for the summer… but in those seasons, I think they need us to press in more than ever to be a source of safety and stability…wasted band-aids and all.
by Danae Hawthorne