How to Help Kids Who Struggle When Change is Hard
From giving your kids cut up bananas instead of a whole banana to now dad is at home because he lost his job—change is hard. Change is hard in both small things and in big things.
So what can you do about it when change is hard?
Maybe today it’s not just your kids that are struggling with change—maybe you are too. While I can’t remove change from your life or anyone’s life for that matter, there are some things that I’ve learned for how to respond when change is hard.
Here are 7 things that my mom mentors have taught me for what to do when change is hard. Not only will they help you as you console, teach, and diffuse anxiety in your kids—but they’ll also give you a renewed focus to do what God has called you to do for such a time as this.
How can I help a child struggling when change is hard?
Sometimes kids anxiety is just a reflection of our own anxiety. And that’s why it’s important for us to be prepared to take care of ourselves before we even try to help our kids. So if you are feeling anxious today—here’s how you can stop feeling anxious in 5 minutes or less.
Or if you want to go deeper—download my free Help Your Kids When Change is Hard Worksheet. It includes a section specifically for you—and a helpful feeling chart for your kids. Which I’ll be talking about what that is in a little bit.
Do what’s best for your kids first.
All too often we get pulled in so many directions—especially as we try and tackle All.The.Things. But, in the process, sometimes we neglect to consider what’s best for our kids. Yet, it’s also a balance.
There are times where my son can be demanding and want my attention when honestly if I give him my attention, nothing would get done.
One of the things that my husband and I decided early on in our parenting, was to teach our son patience and also to complete tasks before starting new ones. So we would let Sebastian know, I’m going to finish this task, whatever it was, then we would help him out with what he needed.
In addition, we learned from some mentors a simple way to help our kids understand that we place them first, and yet we also need to be respectful, patient, and not interrupt.
It looked like this.
When in conversation with someone, we’ve instructed our son if he needed us for something to just come up to us and touch our leg. He just needed to put his hand on our leg and then wait. Then, we he would do this we would appropriately break away from our conversation, bend down take our son’s face in our hands, look in his eyes and say, “What do you need, Sebastian?”
This demonstrates to him that he has my full attention. This does two things—teaches him he’s important and also that it’s not appropriate for him to be demanding and disrespectful by interrupting.
Teach kids how to process their feelings.
When change is hard, feelings can be big and often negative. Not only for our kids, but for us. Change often brings about uncertainty, unfulfilled wants, or even unmet needs. As adults we have tendencies to stuff our feelings, explode our feelings, or less commonly process through our feelings.
One reason for this, is that we think of feelings as something that is small, when in reality, our emotions are largely related to what we think and what we do. And however we process feelings or don’t when change is hard—this is what we are modeling and teach our kids. And they will do the same thing. If we don’t teach them how to do this—it will have a negative impact on their future.
Licensed clinical psychologist from James Madison University, Ph.D Gregg Henriques, talked more about this in his Psychology Today article Understanding Emotions. He believes that the reason for an increase and stress, depression, and anxiety—is because “people seem deeply confused about the nature of negative emotions and how to process them.”
Help them to verbalize why they are struggling.
Being able to give words to those feelings or struggles directly builds upon how we—both kids and adults—then relate to and interact with other. This is why it is so important for us—as parents—to develop an emotional vocabulary. Then it’s even more important for us to teach our kids how to develop and emotional vocabulary as well.
So what do I mean by “emotional vocabulary”?
I shared more about this in 4 Ways to Find Relief as an overwhelmed mom. Simply put, I had emotions—but I didn’t have words to describe those emotions.
It helps to have a consistency for the day to day schedule.
Try to manage your time well. Kids honestly, don’t adapt well to change. They need to have consistency in their life to help them feel safe, loved, and to prepared. Just like us—change is hard—we like consistency.
If you’re like most moms, you like you’re coffee in the morning. And you’re pretty particular about your creamer, right? What if someone snuck into your house every day and changed out your creamer? You’d wake up in the morning not knowing what you were going to get—and it would frustrate you. The same is true for kids.
Change is hard for kids when it continually interrupts what they think is going to happen. A consistent day to day schedule helps them to develop habits, but it also helps them to not be in a state of constant unknown.
Try to, as best that you can, prepare in advance for what is happening.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot be fully prepared for everything. But, that doesn’t mean you just let life happen as it may and likewise let your kids try and handle things as they happen too. If you know that something is going to change—help your kids prepare for that change too.
Sometimes it’s a personality thing—especially with 1st born kids. They don’t like surprises. But other times it just takes us as adults talking about what is going to happen next.
Also, if we don’t know what is going to happen, tell them that too! It helps them to see that life doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. It also gives you the opportunity to reassure them that even though change is hard—you can and will get through it.
You can help them to understand more the concept of walking by faith—that God is always with us and He will guide us.
Put together a list of things to do and then pick just one thing.
When change is hard, we often slip into overwhelm because we don’t know what to do. The simplest thing to do is to just pick one thing and do that. You don’t need to do everything—in fact it’s better to just do one thing well.
When Change Is Hard Look Up
Lastly, the thing to remember when change is hard is that there is something, someone we can always turn to that is constant. God.
If you end up trying all of these things and still find that your kids—or even you are struggling—look to the One who offers us peace. Sometimes all it takes is saying the Name of Jesus. I’ve been comforted often by the word of Psalm 23 during times when change is hard for me. So I’ll leave you with this prayer.
I pray for you as you read this post. May you know that God is your shepherd and that you may not be found in want. I pray that God will reveal His ways in how He is making you lie down in green pastures—a place where you can experience fullness of His provision. I pray you will sense God’s leading you beside quiet waters, where your soul can be refreshed and restored. Even when change is hard, I pray that you will not fear, because He is with you.
Father, your Word says that you do all of this to guide us in paths of righteousness, that you Lord prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies, that our cup will overflow and our head be anointed with oil. May all of these promises from Your Word be fulfilled today by the power of the Holy Spirit for Your Name and Your renown, amen.
What is one way mentioned above that you might try for how to help your kid when change is hard?
Get the help you need right now by downloading the free worksheet—Help Your Kids When Change is Hard. It includes not only a feelings chart for your kids, but a helpful worksheet for you too!