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The 7 best ways to help kids adapt to change

Quick – think of how you feel when you see the word change. Are you excited or afraid, curious or anxious? While change can be good and bad, our usual response in both cases depends on personality, but also on habits instilled to us by our childhood and life experiences.

One of the most important skills you can help your child develop in the 21st century is the ability to thrive on change. There are everyday changes all children face, such as adjusting to a new sibling or a new babysitter or to a new teacher when school starts and for some, there is also moving or even something as simple as just travelling. Interestingly kids’ books on any of these changes are so focused on what change brings as negatives that it took a librarian several days to search for a positive book I could read to my kids about moving to a different city – and come back empty handed!

So here are seven best practices to help kids successfully adapt to change:
1. Whenever possible, involve them in the conversation about the decision – this will prevent them from feeling powerless and resentful.
2. Don’t sugar coat it – tell them what is really happening in simple terms, don’t get lost in details or possibilities. Remember, it’s always best to let them ask you any questions that they may have.
3. Portray it as an adventure – and make sure that you sound as excited as you say you are!
4. Let them see/feel the future – visit sites with images and videos on the topic, role play what to expect (in the case of babysitters, get a book on that topic from the library or watch a children’s show about that – there are episodes on that by Berenstein’s Bears, Franklin and Caillou, or for older kids, there is Mary Poppins) 
5. Don’t over emphasize the change – keep the tone casual and don’t bring it up too often.
6. Give them heads up so they can prepare – remind them a week before and a day before – and even if it’s a small change form one activity to another, a 5 minutes heads up will do wonders to their ability to cooperate to your request.
7. Be relaxed about it – and they will be too!

So to give you an example, this is how this applies to introducing a new babysitter to my kids. For my older kids, I let them know when and why the babysitter is coming as soon as we make the booking and I give them a reminder the day before the event. An hour before the sitter is due to arrive, I explain in an easy going tone of voice to all of them (even to the one year old) who the person is, give them a few interesting personal details (for example hobbies or interests) and identify any interesting activities planned for them during the time we will be away. Then when the person comes, I do the introductions to the kids and quickly proceed to orient the sitter to the house and to how to reach us in case of need. I leave a few instructions that really matter (feed them, go outside or not etc). Then cheerfully, I blow them kisses, quickly get my things and leave. Staying on or being anxious, creates anxiety in the kids as well as in the sitter.  Many wonderful babysitters have taken care of our kids over the years, and their creative ideas have enriched our family’s life whether they have come in once or many times.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, CEO -

Posted: August 26, 2012