Navigating “change” and routine in young children

Sure, having a predictable family routine helps promote a balanced and structured lifestyle… we know this! However – – this isn’t always realistic or possible! Change is important AND necessary for growth. As adults, we are the decision makers for change in our children’s lives. This means we are given a very important role to model and encourage appropriate coping strategies for managing change. Change can be as little as going to a new café or having dinner at Nan’s on Sunday instead of Tuesday. It can also be a bigger deal such as introducing a new baby sister or starting school! Change can bring a variety of emotions such as anger, feelings of resentment, stress and anxiety as well as excitement, surprise and feelings of joyfulness!

As adults, we have more life experience and higher levels of emotional intelligence and resilience than children and this helps us navigate our way through life changes. Reflect on some of the strategies you use when overwhelmed with a lifestyle adjustment? Maybe you have just changed jobs, moved interstate, bought a house! So… how can we support our little ones?

Here are some quick hot tips for managing change in young children:

 

  • Explain the change as far in advance as possible to allow your child time to adjust. Encourage them to ask questions and use very clear words so there are no
    surprises, and nothing is left out! Often children require information repeated up to three times for it to be fully understood and stored in their memory. Use pictures to help their understanding if they are under 3 years. For example, are you moving to a new house? Take pictures of their new room and ask them to draw where they would like their new bed! How exciting!!
  • Where possible, gain their input in the decision-making process or the change. This open dialogue can help reduce and anxiety which can often be a by-product of change.
  • Be a good role model for dealing with change. For example, model a calm and reasonable response such as:“We have to go to a new doctor because our doctor is away. I am feeling excited and a little nervous- but that’s okay!”Modelling a stress-free response helps children understand that it is expected change will happen and it’s okay to feel various emotions!

 

Change is important as it builds resilience and teaches young children the importance of being flexible and active problem solvers!

By Hannah Morton, Speech Pathologist at Sydney Speech Clinic