Change can be tough on kids. Whether it be a change of school, a divorce, or a friend who moves away from the neighborhood. It is always rough to watch your child go through this transition and it is your natural inclination to want to help them get through the pain. You can't prevent the pain but you have lots of resources available to help your child deal with the inevitable. It is a parent’s job to teach children how to get through the transitions of life. That means that you have to check your feelings and make sure that you have weathered the transition yourself. Once you have assessed your own coping ability, the most empowering options are to help your child process his feelings. You can do this by reflecting back what you see, feel and hear from him/her. When I work with children and adults I encourage them to identify their primary feeling which includes anger, sadness, loneliness, happiness and fear. This can be an important concept for children because it teaches them to pay attention to their primary feeling. You can help them to identify their primary feeling by asking "How are you feeling about the situation?" or you can share your interpretation of how you believe they are feeling.
That might look like "Justin, it looks like you're really angry about having to change schools." Justin can clarify and say "No mommy, I'm just afraid I won't have as many friends." and then you restate it by saying "Oh I see you're afraid right now about having to change schools and that really makes sense to me."
When you validate feelings you affirm your child and then you can talk about moving out of that feeling if it looks like it is immobilizing him.
Kids have a tendency to "catastrophize" and so often times it can be helpful to talk them "off the ledge" and remind them of how resourceful they are. That might look like "Johnny, we can go visit Steven in the summer and since he lives in Kentucky we can plan to go to Holiday World and take him with us. This obviously gives your child something to look forward to! Or Susie I know that it makes you sad that Daddy and I are getting divorced so let's talk about why this is going to be good for Mom and Dad. Tough situations can feel so overwhelming and yet as a parent it can be important to show kids how to reframe so that they understand that there are always some positives that you can draw from a difficult situation.
Developmentally, it is normal for kids to have black-and-white thinking until they reach the age of 8. It is instrumental for a parent to teach their child that there can be lots of "gray" in any situation. As parent’s role model how to look at life, it will of course teach children how to do the same. Kids will begin to look at change with less fear and perhaps even more anticipation of the fun things that will come from it.
Check Your Self
How do you handle change? As you look at life, are you able to see how you grow stronger from these types of transitions?
Are you able to identify your own feelings as you move into change?
Parenting can feel overwhelming at times, however it's exciting to be teaching your kids how to learn life lessons that will empower them and make them stronger!