Endings and beginnings. Change – new ages-and-stages, new learning, new skills, new frustrations, new dreams, new challenges. Anticipation, celebration and uncertainty mark the transition from old to new. Each new experience brings new opportunities for parents and for children to let go and adapt to life’s changes.
Change comes in all sizes from giving up a pacifier to welcoming a new baby brother. Things you know and things you don’t know – change is inevitable. Life is learning. Children learn adaptability through a mix of skill and attitude, the combination of which is measured to fit individual personalities. Here are a few practical strategies for raising resilient, resourceful kids.
Change catches children “between” – between the old and the new, between one stage and the next, between an ending and a beginning. To young children who are just learning that the world is a safe place, transition times can feel like giant black holes. Helpful parents fill up those empty spaces with familiar support that help children manage uncertainty.
Prepare your child for change with daily, weekly and monthly family rituals that create stability in a changing world.
• A special way to say “I love you” everyday: a secret sign or a made-up language
• A family game night or Saturday morning bagels
• Family breakfast in bed or special party plates once a month
• A moon note under the pillow at full moon
• Adopt a tree and take your child’s picture there once a month – save in special book
Keep it simple but look for ways to give your child an anchor to hold steady through the tides of change.
Trust in the stability of your family while moving confidently forward. Forward focus is the guiding star that lights the way ahead. Children may get overwhelmed in the moment with fear, uncertainty, confusion, even sadness. You can offer comfort without losing sight of positive growth.
Practice looking into the future together.
• Play sequence-games that help children see order in events (a trip to Disney has many steps: picking a hotel, putting gas in the car, driving on the turnpike, stopping for ice cream, and getting off at the right exit)
• Keep a home calendar of activities and special events that children can follow regularly (school days, car wash days, grocery days, visit to grandparents)
• Play “what if” in the car or on long walks to instill flexible thinking (what if… dogs could fly, trees could move or you forget your lunch at school)
Change isn’t scary at all when you know you are creative, resourceful and prepared for anything. Parents lift the weight of fear and doubt off children every time they show them that tomorrow is safe and fun.
Dumbo’s Magic Feather
In the classic Disney movie Dumbo, the big-eared title character believes he can fly despite all the nay-sayers because he has a magic feather. When he loses the feather, he realizes he can fly without it but that magic feather helps Dumbo conquer his doubts.
How can you teach optimism? Optimism is first contagious and second it’s a skill. A positive attitude takes daily practice.
• Praise your child’s effort not success (failure is then temporary not debilitating).
• Encourage your child to try something new every day or at least every week (from writing with her feet to catching a bug – doesn’t matter).
• Equip your child with tangible emotional support to conquer tough situations (a magic feather, a heart drawn on her hand or lucky socks).
• Help someone. Children feel strong and capable when they can help others.
Welcome to the new! It isn’t easy to lead your child into new adventures, especially when they are new for you too. In this fast-changing world, the child raised with roots and wings is the child who is prepared for anything. You GOT this and you are not alone.