Although it’s a normal part of life, change can be stressful for families, especially small children. However, you can help your child learn to cope better with change, rather than fear it.
Why change is stressful
Toddlers need to be able to predict adult behaviour to feel secure. If your behaviour becomes unpredictable, they question what they may have done to upset the status quo and what it all means. This can cause anxiety. Children love repetition because they know what to expect, and they enjoy the security it brings. This means that change is difficult for them to handle. Being dependent on others for most things means that toddlers have little control over their life. When the little control they have is then taken away, uncertainty and fear set in, so your child needs to learn how to manage change. It can’t be avoided, but it can be handled with these simple strategies:
Ways to help your child cope:
1. Make it gradual
Make the change happen one step at a time, to enable a gradual adjustment for your toddler.
2. Give her notice
Always warn your child about an impending change, and explain what it is and how it will affect her.
3. Focus on the familiar
Reassure her with aspects that will remain unchanged; for example, if you’re moving to a new home, tell her she’ll still have the same Barbie duvet cover and curtains.
4. Go easy on her
Tolerate any expected emotional distress, but investigate the cause if it persists for too long.
5. Make a game of it
Celebrate the change with a happy song or fun activity, especially when she has to cope with a major change, for example, moving home or changing crèche.
Other stressful situations and how to handle them:
This is one of the most traumatic changes in life. Help your child feel ‘in charge’ of her new room, and place her belongings within reach. Avoid introducing other changes at the same time, such as toilet training.
Going on holiday
Celebrate the opportunity to try new things, for example, a new bed, new places to visit, and delicious new foods.
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