5+ tips for helping your child cope with change

A child showing signs of worry

Change can be difficult for children as they rely on routine and predictability for a feeling of safety. Unexpected transitions for a child can cause distress, but thankfully there are ways that parents you can help children learn to cope with change.

Nicola Baldwin, Spurgeons Parenting Lead and Debbie Pattison, Spurgeons Digital Counselling Manager, offer some tips to help you and your child cope with change.

1. Equip them with the skills they need beforehand

It will give both of you reassurance and confidence. If they are leaving home, show them how to cook simple meals before they go. Also, prepare for trips away by getting them involved in planning days out and holidays- how long will the journey take? What do we need to pack?

2. Praise the effort, not perfection

Your child might not always get everything right first time, but learning new skills is a process. Avoid saying ‘that was nice but…’, because all they will remember is the words after ‘but…’! Use phrases like ‘you did really well packing some things for staying at Grandma’s house’.

3. Teach them how to think ahead and how to deal with potential problems

If they’re the new kid in class, how might they open a conversation with another child? Who might they ask for help if the bus doesn’t turn up? What could they do if they get lost? What will they do if someone offers them drugs at college?

4. Show that change doesn’t have to be final

If they’re moving schools or home, they can stay in touch with existing friends- discuss how to do that together. You could have a party for all the children together and encourage them to swap their details so they can stay in touch via social media or Zoom. You could also arrange for their friends to come and stay

A boy looks into the camera while holding his father's hand

5. Make sure they know you’re always there for them

Even if they’re going through a major change in their lives- moving house, or going off on a school residential, make it known that you’re always there. Tell them you love them, tell them you’ll miss them – but also how excited you are for them.

6. REALLY listen

Whatever they are, acknowledge your child’s feelings. Tell them it’s quite normal to feel worried or anxious. Don’t always rush to ‘fix’ problems for them – often they’ll come up with the solutions themselves once they’ve talked it through with you. And that’s an important part of growing up.

7. Build resilience

Building resilience in children as they grow helps them cope with change. Some ways to do this include:

  • Encouraging them to try new things
  • Encouraging positive self-talk and self-image by praising what they do well
  • Discussing how everyone makes mistakes and that mistakes are part of learning
  • Finding ways for them to manage their emotions and self-regulate. They could try calming activities, breathing exercises (insert link to box breathing), or writing in a journal.

Further advice and support: Both Nicola and Debbie work for Spurgeons Children’s Counselling Services

Spurgeons Charity, provides professional and effective therapeutic service to communities throughout the UK.

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