Ways to Help Kids Cope with Big Life Changes

A wide-eyed boy with curly hair.

Change is difficult for parents on so many levels. Making the big decision, dealing with the change itself, finding the best way to relay the message to the kids, and on top of all that, helping kids cope with big life changes. Depending on how grown your kids are, they will experience the change differently. Approaching the topic delicately is super important as your kids may not welcome the change with open arms. As much as they might initially overreact, kids are resilient and ultimately adapt to change better than we realize. Therefore, the goal is to plan the best way to deliver the news and handle your kids' feelings, acknowledging them and helping them see the bright side.

Talk About the Change

Talk to your kids about what will happen and what the change will mean for all of you. If you are moving to a new home or city, talk about the challenging parts as well as the fun ones and what to expect. Moving during childhood can leave some marks on your kids, so answer as many questions as you can. The questions might be about:

  1. How long the move will take

  2. How far your new home is from school

  3. What you know about the school and town

Mom and dad talking to an upset child at the table.
Talking about it will help kids cope with big life changes.

Your child might not be happy about making a change. They can be scared about the unfamiliar and not see it as exciting or fun. This could lead to them not taking to the transition well. Talk to your kids about how they're feeling about the change, and let them share their

feelings with you. They could be:

● Upset that they'll be away from their friends at their new school

● Anxious about making new friends

● Angry that they have to leave their home

Maintain a positive attitude while you have conversations with your kids. If you show confidence and enthusiasm about the change, it will reflect on them.

Moving with Children

A big move can cause a ton of anxiety for both the parents and the kids. Give yourself time to prepare for the change before turning to your kids. This way, you can be calmer and positively approach the situation. Try to make it simple for them by explaining everything before the moving day. Get them involved in the moving process by giving them responsibilities. They can pack their toys, put stickers on boxes, and make more minor decisions that will make them feel in control.

Mom and toddler sitting on a wooden floor looking at a map.
Make the move fun for the little ones by letting them participate.

Give Time to Prepare

With some unexpected changes, preparation is not possible. However, give your child ample time to adapt to the significant change whenever you can. This will allow them time to process the news and begin to accept it. Here are just some of the possible scenarios:

  1. Take a trip to the new house, city, or school if you're moving. See if your child can meet the teacher in advance. Ask the teacher to talk about a typical day at the new school; maybe they can see the classroom and find out about the school's fun activities.

  2. If you are going through a divorce, make sure that you relate the news to your kids together. Show them where the other parent will be living. Get them excited about their new rooms. Show them the new neighborhood and highlight exciting areas.

  3. If you're having a baby, show your children baby pictures of themselves. Talk about what to expect when the new baby comes and all the ways your children can have fun being big brothers or sisters.

Maintain the Routines to Help Kids Cope with Big Life Changes

Children thrive on routine, and they need that predictability to feel safe and happy. Naturally, things will be different, but try to keep their routine similar to help kids cope with significant life changes. Implement as many things from their routine as you can, such as storytime and playtime. Soon, your kids will know what to expect and when.

Listen and Empathize

You want to focus on the positives when helping your kids cope with big life changes. But it would help if you also took time to address their questions and concerns. Help them express and go through whatever emotions they are feeling. Children need empathy and understanding. Even though it is tempting, don't just go straight to distracting them or trying to protect them. Recognize and validate their feelings. Significant events and changes are valuable learning experiences as they learn to be resilient, and guiding children through their feelings is vital. Let them know that even though change is scary, they are strong and can get through it.

Mom hugging a toddler and holding a baby in a forest
Let your kids express their emotions while you listen and empathize.

Allow Emotions

As a parent, you want your kids to be happy all the time, and it can be hard to see them get upset. If they are not taking the news well and have temper tantrums or are miserable, it can be challenging for the family. It may be difficult, but let the emotions happen, acknowledge them, and let them know it's okay to cry and be upset. Allowing for emotions and talking about it will help your kids handle stress better in the future. Let your kids know that what they're feeling is normal, validated, and okay.

Get Advice

It is perfectly normal not to have all the answers. The significant change might be highly stressful for a parent, and it may be the first time you are dealing with this situation. Try to inform yourself about how to deal with this change as much as possible. Get books, do online research, talk to friends with similar experiences. But if your child is having difficulty sleeping, loses appetite, or turns to isolation for more than a week, consider consulting a therapist. A trained professional will know how to approach your child and support their emotional wellbeing using various techniques. Kids need to know they will have people they love nearby and have concrete items, places, and experiences they can count on.

Offer Choices

During a significant life change, children feel that they have no control over their lives. Have your kids involved in decisions about the change. If the change involves moving, let your child choose colors for their new bedroom and have them arrange their things the way they want to. If they're going to a new school, let your child pick out some cool school supplies and choose what to wear on the first day. By involving and including your kids in decisions, you help them feel more in control and cope with the big life changes.


Author bio:

Ela Glover is a psychologist with years of experience working with children. Her passion is to educate parents on the best practices when it comes to handling big changes. Ela enjoys writing blogs as a way to help new generations of parents.

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