As adults we already know that we must let our pride down and find those great bargains such as school supplies from the Dollar Tree Store so we can afford more for the kids later. We also know that picking a good after school program is a must for our kids to build strong, healthy relationships.
The much-dreaded Back to School season is here. Often times we can be so focused on the frantic tasks to ready our children for the approaching school year that we might forget to take a minute and discuss the obvious that we all have trouble with, no matter where we are in life: Change.
The back to school season guarantees that change is happening. The changes might be more regular such as new teachers, new grades, and new friends; but often times there are larger changes at this time too, such as different family surroundings, and the comfort ability we had just three short months ago. This is in addition to the drastic physical and mental changes our children deal with all the time.
Dealing with change can be strenuous to everyone. Unfortunately, as the adults we must learn the ability to adapt with constant change right away, so we can help our children do the same. Two of the biggest times of change for kids happen in August and in May: The beginning and end of the school year.
We have to help children build confidence in the change, by not showing fear and assuring them they will fit in and make new friends in August. Much like in May, a good thing to say is, “Don’t worry, you will see them again,” even though there’s really no guarantees they will.
Signs are that hint at a child’s difficulty to cope with change include moodiness or irritability, clinging to you (because you are what hasn’t changed) more than usual, being angry, sad, anxious, or even afraid without a just cause, or being less social than what is normal.
When these signs are recognized, remember to deal with them with some T.L.C.
A great way to help your kid deal with change is to talk with them. Talk openly about fears; theirs and yours, but make sure to keep this positive. Talk with them about what will happen with the change and what it means for all of you.
For example, at the beginning of the new school year, talk about how important the jump will be to the next grade level. Explain how although it’s hard and unknown, more importantly it is one step closer to be a grown up (this will entice them since that’s every child’s big dream). Make sure you can answer as many of your child’s questions as you can, such as the need to transfer from elementary school to junior high (or middle school), or from public school A, to public school B.
Listening to your child doesn’t take that much effort on your part. Rather, it just takes patience, and your non-verbal communication. Remember to stop what you are doing and look at your child. And listen to more than just words: Pay attention to your child’s non-verbal language. You can tell a lot from their non-verbals. Be silent and let them talk. Instead of responding in long-sentences, try using simple acknowledgement responses such as “I see” or “Uh huh” to keep them talking. Make sure they get everything out, before you respond, because you don’t want to miss anything and give bad advice.
Along those same lines, use door-opener phrases that such as “I know what you mean,” and “Then what happened?”which encourage further discussion. Make sure to listen for and name the feelings you think you hear from your child, and paraphrase it back to them. Finally, use problem-solving when needed to help your child and you come to a conclusion – empowering them is one of the greatest ways you can listen to them.
One of the greatest things a parent can do to help a child cope with the inevitable change is to make yourself available without pushing or prying. Spend time with your kids: Play games, reading to them, or even watching their favorite TV Show with them. Try talking about change with them in a subtle way. Tell a story about how you recently dealt with change – be careful not to be too obvious, if they get a wiff that you are prying, more than helping, they might not open up to you. With some kids, you need to have a more “going to be sub-liminal” approach.
Just like anything else we do in life, change takes preparation. Part of the preparation is to make sure things go smoothly. Make sure your child is eating well, exercising regularly, and gets enough sleep (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 15 get 9-11 hours a night). The healthier a child is physically, the easier it will be to withstand the stress of everyday change. You can also have your child write in a journal, this helps them channel things and process their thoughts on their own.
Don’t forget to show your child the positive ways you personally handle change. Talk about how you feel during these times of change and how you cope. As you prepare yourself and your child for change, remember that the only thing constant in this world is change.
Much like caring for a child, you need to be able to express the other kind of TLC: Tender Loving Care. As children embrace change throughout their younger years you also need to embrace some TLC: Talking, Listening, and Connecting with your child.