Change can be a very positive experience and in many cases change is exciting but within that can still be the uncertainty of the unknown and if we as adults feel this, then it can bring a period of adjustment and stress for a child. For most children their family is their whole world and they construct their identity through their family. Having had two children has made me so aware of the impact that family has on you as a child and it is vital when there is change within the family they feel okay with it.
As we go from a relationship to a single parent status, the family dynamic shifts, not just for us but for your children. When their whole life changes, they leave the comfort zone they know which can be daunting and scary. Through the last 4 years of my single mother journey, separation, moving interstate, selling a business and building a new one I’ve learnt some things that have helped shift from fear to adventure.
- Visualise. I have found that if both my kids are able to picture and see the changes this has been a huge help. I have found by including them in the changes and showing them all the new changes such as schools, new house, new shops etc they now can picture where they will be and picture themselves going there. I do this with everything that is new for them, including when they were being toilet trained. Imagine what it will be liked to use a big person toilet and how important and grown up you will feel.
- Communication. The more you talk with the children about any changes the better. It is important for the kids to know that this means change for you as an adult as well and that is okay to feel nervous or unsure about the changes. Everyone experiences it. Talking about their feelings and how it makes them feel is very important. Giving examples of the changes and what may be different is also great too.
- Routine. Children love and thrive on routine and knowing what is going to happen next. During periods of change, their routine can be thrown out the window. It is important to try and keep as much as possible the same. Even if it is little things like still having dinner at the dining table every evening, or keeping the bedtime routine the same. Letting them do the normal things they normally do after school or on the weekends. Keeping certain aspects of their life the same makes it much easier for them to adjust and know that their family environment is still a safe and secure place for them to be.
- Patience. During periods of adjustment, they may need you to be a little more patient! This can be hard when you also have a lot on your plate, especially going from relationship to single. Nighttime and a new bedroom will be a big deal for some children, so spending a few extra minutes with them, perhaps putting a night light in the corridor or some soft music playing will help them settle into their new bedroom quickly.
- Adapting. I know that with my son, in particular, if things are different he can get stressed or just throw his hands up in the air. It is important for kids to see you adapt to new changes and see that they can adapt too. If something is different don’t throw your hands in the air, teach them examples of how we can enjoy the new changes and different ways of doing things. Make the changes fun.
One of my favourite quotes which can help through all of this and a great thing to teach your kids is “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.
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