Supporting our children through expected and unexpected change
Transitions and changes are an inevitable part of life, occurring during infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The period during which we transition from an old and familiar routine or environment to an environment that is new and unfamiliar, has the potential to result in feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress. During infancy and childhood years these periods of change may come in the form of teething, weaning, starting solids, potty training, beginning preschool and primary school as well as puberty. In addition, changes within the home environment such as the loss of a job, moving cities and homes, the arrival of new siblings, as well as changes in caregivers and parental partners are all significant changes within a child’s life.
The way in which children are able to navigate these changes is influenced by a number of factors, such as their temperament, personality, and the availability of their caregivers. While some children find these changes difficult, others are able to handle them more easily. Irrespective, it is important that children are provided with the necessary support in order to help them adjust to the changes within and around them. Although this is sometimes very difficult for parents, who may lack control over the changes, failing to provide children with the necessary support can have a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. An increase in their stress levels has the potential to negatively impact their cognitive, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Therefore, the adults within a child’s life, including their parents, caregivers, and teachers, play a crucial role and can aid children by ensuring that they feel safe and secure. Supportive adults are able to help children learn to cope with difficulty, adapt to changes within their environment and regulate their emotions, thus making the transitional period into an experience that fosters their growth and development.
We can help support our children adjust to changes by:
Talking about the change with them and allowing them to ask questions.
Helping them to label their feelings.
Responding to them in a way that is sensitive to their feelings and is predictable and consistent.
Creating routines within the home environment that allows them to know what to expect.
Spending time with them.
Encouraging them to play, and playing with them.
Written by: Sheree Adams
Sheree is an educational intern psychologist currently doing her internship at Ububele.