For as long as I can remember, late August/early September has been my favorite time of year. As we enter into the tail end of summer, we still get to enjoy a few more weeks of hot bright days in the Pacific Northwest. If your family is anything like mine, summer is full of berry picking, water play, bike riding, popsicles and sun tanned skin. Though now as we look around, we can see glimmers of autumn brewing. The leaves are starting to fall, the colors around us are changing and the days while still long, are starting to set a little earlier. The changing of seasons holds so much beauty if we can just slow down enough to simmer in its glory.
As we mosey alongside the end of summer and prepare to enter into fall, my family is also preparing to enter into a new season, the season of birth and bringing home another baby. Change often brings it’s own splendor, but as we know it can be painful and hard, especially for young children. However, when children can anticipate changes it allows them to mentally prepare for new things to occur, with this they tend to hold a steadier emotional state than if information is just thrown upon them. Change is tough, so don’t expect your child to be perfectly okay in times of change even if you do “everything right.” Though, that should not keep us from diligently engaging children in understanding the changes that are about to occur. In general, people greatly underestimate the power of communicating change to children. We tend to expect them to just “go along with it” since they are young. Though, explaining changes and narrating routines even to young babies has many benefits.
A Few Benefits of Explaining Change to Children:
-Strengthens their vocabulary
-Allows for them to process information in a healthy manner
-Creates an internal compass of safety and security with caregivers (what you say is reliable)
-Lessens emotional and behavioral outbursts due to predictability
-Allows for predictable experiences (this very important for children as it lessens anxiety and contributes to easier daily routines)
-It is a respectful act that honors them as people
It is crucial that we as parents and caregivers strive to involve our children in the changes that are occurring around them. Changes are happening around us every single day, we don’t need to wait for a major life event to involve our children in understanding the new processes that are occurring around them. In fact, the more we get comfortable with explaining changes in day to day life with our kids, the more prepared we will be to handle the big life transitions that may occur in the future with our kids.
Ways to Introduce Change as Part of Day to Day Life:
- Narrate what is happening around you (Example: “Do you notice how the leaves are beginning to change color?”
- Explain the daily schedule, even if its mundane (Example: “First we are going to eat breakfast, then go to grandma’s house to play, then we will come home for nap.”)
- Use a variety of sources to demonstrate how change is occurring (pictures, physical items, books, charts etc)
Remember, simply communicating day to day changes has power for children. See if you can make it a common practice within your home. You may be surprised at how much easier it is to do things with little kids when we just make an effort to explain what is happening! Not to mention, when we talk through changes, we give ourselves and our kids a lovely gift of living a vivid, secure and present life.
-Written by Emily De La Torre, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Vancouver, WA