This is an exciting time of the year — not just for ones who will graduate but for the excitement of summer that comes for all school age children, their younger brothers and sisters and their parents.
Even the child who is leaving preschool and who will enter kindergarten in the fall is filled with excitement but also with anxiety. Change causes both. If change can be a big thing for us as adults, think how it feels to children. Children can handle most everyday change but then there are big changes.
A new sibling is a big change and so is a new puppy. Moving to a new home is a huge change and some children have great difficulty. Changing schools is also a huge change for most children.
All of these are changes we can help our children handle if we give some thought of ways to lessen the impact of the change.
Graduation has even bigger changes. Not only the coming of summer but having ideas and making plans for the coming year will be a major change for these people. Hopefully there has been regular discussion about potential choices for those people who won’t return to the same school in September. These are major decisions as well as major changes.
Most of us, and especially children, appreciate “sameness” in our lives. That does not mean we do not like any change but it does mean we appreciate the daily routines and the predictability of daily routines. So how can we help our children handle change.
Coping with change
• Talk about it ahead of time. Have a discussion that starts your child thinking about what is about to happen. If he is getting ready for kindergarten, take him to school and walk around the playground. Show him the library. Be excited with him. If he is graduating from high school, talk about what is open to him.
Should he think about summer school? Does he plan on joining the band? Who else does he know that will be going to the same school? Is he going to go on to school? What other choices is he considering? Talking together helps on most things. It certainly helps on this kind of change.
• Be open to answering all their questions. Depending on your child’s age, he may have a lot of questions. Even if some are repeated many times. Encourage the questions. Even you can make a guess what kinds of questions he might have and talk about them.
• Keep as much the same as possible. During a big change, like adding a sibling to the family, try to keep as much the same as possible. For example, this is not the best time to also move your child from a crib to big bed. The first days at a new school are not the best time to introduce other new programs he may be starting after school. It is nice to enjoy the familiar.
• Expect that some regression may happen. The stress of the change may cause a child to regress to behaviors he did at an earlier time in his life. Be patient. This is a part of the stress that change can bring.
• Help him by reminding him of the positives. Be accepting of difficulties that come with changes. He may have difficulty with the change but don’t try to distract him. Try instead to help him deal with the major change that is taking place in his life.
•A little extra attention can help your child deal with stress. How does attention help your child deal with change? Extra attention and patience from you helps your child understand that although some parts of life are changing, your love and care remains constant. That is a major plus in life.
Don’t forget about the changes in your child’s life having a major impact on your life. The child who is graduating from high school and moving on makes a major change in your life. The child who is going to school for more hours each day significantly changes his mother’s life.
Change for your children is change for you. These can be exciting times.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach current First Teacher Executive Director Nicole Brewer, email email@example.com or call 360-681-2250.