Headstart for Life

Why Changes Are Good for Your Child

Posted on Monday, October 9, 2017 by 2 minutes

Hi there! Welcome back to HeadStart for Life’s Blog, Beyond Therapy!

Do you feel we live in a world where structure is a religion and routine is a virtue. Experiences help shape our thinking, process the environment and adjust accordingly hence we grow into mature adults. Yes, it takes a lot of effort not to scream when the car suddenly breaks down when going for an important meeting. Or when your most frequented food stall has closed down and now you have to find a new place for your comfort food.

Young children grow better in a more structured and routine based environment as this establishes a sense of consistency, safety and security. Structure helps them to makes sense of the environment and routine helps in honing skills as well as managing expectations. However, as much as we yearn for predictability, ‘change is the only constant’ and as parents, we have the responsibility to help our children cope with inevitable changes.

What is change?

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Some examples of change are:

  1. leaving home for school and back home again
  2. going for a school trip
  3. weekday routine to weekend routine
  4. going on a holiday
  5. moving from sleeping in a crib to a bed
  6. using a diaper to potty
  7. arrival of a new baby
  8. moving to a new home/school/neighbourhood
  9. change of nanny
  10. death of loved ones

Change is essential to a child’s development.

Studies have shown that the early years of a child (less than 5 years) is crucial in building the foundations for perennial learning and development. Therefore, introducing changes to a child builds certain life skills that are essential in growing up to be mature and responsible adults.

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Changes allows the child to learn to be flexible. Flexibility of thoughts is most essential in learning and socialising. For example, it’s needed for solving maths problems where there can be other ways to derive the answer. It teaches the child to work along with peers and allows perspective taking.

Flexibility in turn nurtures resilience, most important life skill needed for everyone, young to old. It helps them to manage tough times, rise from failures and make quick comebacks from setbacks.

Why is it difficult for a child to cope with changes?

 

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We all know some consequences of change that maybe undesirable, which is  yelling, screaming, tantrums, meltdowns, etc. When this happens, we should remember that research in neuroscience has shown that a child’s (especially under 5) regulatory part of the brain is not developed yet, hence they lack the brain capacity to control themselves or manage their impulsive feelings. They also lack a sense of time, which means their attention is on the here and now, planning or thinking about what the near future holds is quite challenging. However, they would have the basic skills of sequencing (first, next, last) such as the recalling the steps for putting on a shoe (first-put  on the socks, next- put on the shoe).

Factors that affect reaction to changes.

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The importance of adult intervention.

Children see the world through their parents eyes. In order for the child to adapt to changes quickly and effectively, parents play an important role. The relationship established with the parent determines how they understand and interact with the world. Guiding  the child through transitions will help them to develop

  • flexibility to shift attention
  • planning what comes next
  • emotional management
  • sequencing skills

which are all essential in helping the child evolve as a mindful and organised person.

Ways to help your child adapt to changes.

 

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1. Observe

It is imperative to observe your child’s reaction to changes. Whether it is a positive reaction (i.e. Does the child look forward to it?) or is it a negative reaction (i.e. Does your child get anxious?). Also look out for any patterns of behaviour whenever a change is about to happen such as crying, running off or seeking attention/ comfort.

2. Communicate

Communication can be quite challenging for younger children as speech and language skills are still developing. Also the child needs to be able to relate how he/she feels and articulate his/ her feelings. If the child has difficulty relating their emotions, social stories are a great way to help them. They may be able to identify their feelings better through characters in a book and let adults know exactly how they feel.

This is important especially if changes are brought about through loss of a loved one or arrival of new siblings. Parents should be mindful of the emotional rollercoaster the child goes through and provide comfort in their sadness.

3. Perception of change

Change can be both positive or negative depending on how we choose to see it. It can be perceived as an obstacle that impedes achieving something quickly or an opportunity to learn something new to broaden our horizons.

Therefore, it is important to observe how the child perceives a change. We should understand what kind of projections the child thinks of, whether it is despairing or optimistic. Despairing thoughts should be redirected into positive thoughts.

4. Be proactive

The best way to is to anticipate the reaction of the child and arm them with solutions in case the change brings about undesirable outcomes. For example, any child would be anxious of an arrival of a new sibling. Therefore, pre-empting the child of the arrival is a good way to reduce anxiety. Letting them know they have a bigger part to play is a way to encourage responsibility. Staging role-plays is an effective way to let the child experience what will happen and anticipate various outcomes.

5. Be disruptive occasionally

Routines are great to keep order and control. Children love routines as it comforts them and is less stressful for they know what to expect next. However introducing small changes will be beneficial to break the rigidity. Such changes should be subtle and inviting. Visual cues such as using a visual schedule will be helpful for them to visualise the next activity or task.

Hope this post will help both your child and yourself to cope with and manage changes in life! See you back here soon!


 

References:

Jett, C. (2016). Teaching Children How to Adapt. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/teaching-children-how-to-adapt/

Additude Editors. (2011). Adapting to change : Go with the flow, Retrieved on September 26, 2017, from https://www.additudemag.com/adapt-change-school-classroom-home-adhd-children/

Klein, T. (2014). The kids are alright, but they don’t like change.Retrieved on September 26, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-thriving-children/201404/the-kids-are-alright-they-don-t-change

 

"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Usha

Usha has been working with children with special needs for 3 years. She has great passion in integrating children with special needs into the community. In her free time, she likes to cycle along the coasts of Singapore exploring nature.

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