Children go through all kinds of changes during their journey into adulthood.
They start new schools, lose friends, and face the death of a loved one or a beloved pet. You might move home or get divorced.
Even a parent starting a new job, and the change in routines that it brings, can be difficult for a child to understand and adjust to.
We often say that children adjust more easily and more quickly than adults. While this can be true, it can also mean that we make the mistake of underestimating their struggles, or of assuming that they’ll be alright.
When it comes to coping with change, adults have a considerable advantage. We know that change is a part of life – that they’ll continue to come and that we will get used to things.
For a child, every change is new. It’s life-altering, and it’s a bit of a shock.
This can lead to anxiety, stress, and even depression, especially in younger children who are coping with a significant change like divorce for the first time.
It’s your job to help them cope, minimize disruption, and take care of their mental health. Here are some tips:
Have Honest Conversations
Something like the divorce of their parents is bound to lead to a stressful time for children. Their whole life is turned upside down.
They are confused. They don’t understand why this is happening, what they’ve done wrong, or what they can do.
It might be a difficult conversation for you to have, but you need to.
Talk to them, don’t go into all of the gory details, but be honest. Encourage them to ask questions and be as open as you possibly can.
But remember, conversations go both ways. Make sure you are listening to them.
Let them tell you how they feel, what they are thinking, and any worries that they might have, even if they seem silly and small to you.
Try to Maintain Some Normality
Significant changes, whatever they are, mean that life is different. Whether this will be the new norm, or the changes are temporary, it can be confusing and upsetting for your child.
Try to minimize disruption by keeping other areas of their life as normal as possible.
They might be traveling to a different school, but that doesn’t mean that your morning routine can’t be the same as it was before. Stick to bedtimes, after school routines, and family visits as much as possible.
We often see our children’s behavior change during periods of change. They feel out of control, don’t know what is happening, and seek attention.
Offer them choices to give them some control over their lives. Options can be small, like what to wear, what to have for breakfast, and what to watch on TV. Or, they can be a little bigger, like where to go at the weekend.
Trust your instincts. If you are worried about your child’s behavior or mood, speak to their teachers, a doctor, and anyone else who could help.
But, try to stay calm, and remember, change happens.