Families around the world go through transitions. Some are big, some are small. Some are planned. Some are the result of a crisis. A break in our structure and routine can throw off not only our children, but their grown ups as well. In my family’s case, I worried about recent changes that were on the horizon from the time I saw them coming. Not because they were bad. Our changes were good, so good, but because I knew it would tear down the walls of what was familiar to my son, and I feared my own struggles to adapt would cause me to fail him during this time.
An engagement to a wonderful man, house hunting, leaving my job, leaving my son’s school, wedding planning, preparations for a new job, packing, moving, moving, moving, starting a new job, saying goodbye to our home, saying hello to another, the boy starting a new school (in a new language), unpacking, saying goodbye to my sweet grandma, throwing the most beautiful wedding, a wonderful new daddy for the boy, a handsome husband for me, and more and more unpacking. Life was changing.
We could not wait for the calm to come after all these changes. My life felt good and upside down at the same time.
All that good stuff packed together all at once threw our cozy little life all up in the air. We were excited and nervous and happy and unsure and uncomfortable because that’s how we are even if it’s good. New things can cause us to be a little unsure of ourselves. Transitions can be hard (read: I hate transitions.). Our home was bursting at the seams with good things, yet my five-year old’s sleep schedule was now that of a newborn and he was struggling to adapt. At one point the stress of all the changes even caused him to develop a tic, albeit, short-lived. I was worried nonetheless.
I needed a game plan. I needed to know I was supporting him in all the ways I could. So I gathered all I knew in my heart to be good for my son and combined it with advice of those close to me, and I came up with a few things even worn out me could provide for my son during this time.
During one of the biggest times of transition for our family, these few reminders kept us strong…
Maximize Time at Home
Home can be a place of comfort for kids. My son may have compared his new room to that of a snail shell, but the only way he’d grow to like it is if he spent time with it and made it his. I listened to this need of his as much as possible, postponing play dates or grown up dates so he would be able to connect to his new environment with me and my husband as much as possible. Our home was in boxes, but it would be the only constant we have for a while. Allow your family to say no to all the plans and invites. Sometimes snuggling up on the couch together is the best thing our kids need.
Provide Routines (Even if They Are New)
This can be the hardest part if you’re moving or your life is uprooted, especially for families that are highly mobile, but it’s extremely important and we all can do this in some sort of way. Regular schooling, bedtimes and mealtimes are invaluable if you’re able to provide them. In our family, our bedtime routine provides one of the greatest senses of security because it’s when we snuggle and share how much we love each other. When everything else around us was changing, this always stayed the same.
Remind Your Child of the 3 Truths
You are safe. You are loved. We are always here for you. Quite simple, but profound in the life of a child who feels unsettled. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held a child in my arms and repeated those words over and over with tears streaming down both of our eyes. You are safe. You are loved. We are always here for you. I think we all might want to be on the receiving end of that.
Allow Your Children to Express Themselves
I always think it’s best to encourage expression in kids because they will express themselves whether you want them to or not! Give your child a safe and honest place to share how they feel because we all know that left to their own demise, our children’s emotional expressions can sometimes become a bit disruptive and difficult to manage. Am I right? Drawing, pounding on drums (earplugs, please), talking on a walk, crying on your shoulder, or dinnertime conversations, with some intentionality, can be helpful. A tantrum is also an expression of how they feel and is a valuable time for us to help our kids name their feelings. Words such as “You seem to be very angry right now” not only validate their feelings, but also teach important vocabulary while providing a platform for expressing themselves more appropriately. This is a difficult, but worthy cause.
The hardest part of this for me? Being a good example of this as a grown up!
Find Time to Play Each Day
…with your child, that is. Set the unpacking aside, put that very important work away, phones down, whatever it is that has captured your attention these days. Someone once told me that giving your child 20 minutes of undivided attention a day by playing with them can help improve their behavior. I care more about time to connect. Our kids need us during this time more than ever and it’s important that they feel connected to whomever their caregiver may be. Playing is also an appropriate way for kids to express how they are feeling. Plus, playing is fun and therapeutic for us too!
I didn’t always like the process of going through transitions, but with a little support for my family, I definitely am happy with the outcome. What has helped your family when you go through life’s transitions? Add them to the list!