When life is going well, we cruise along without a care in the world. There is effort in the day to day but it may seem as though we can do anything and often not a lot of extra thought into what we are doing. Yet, when things go wrong and they sometimes (usually) will, it takes extra effort, thought and most times some problem solving skills to get through it. As adults, we are able to access previous experience and background information to help us through these situations, we may even ask for help so we have the skills to get us through tough situations. The people in our lives while growing up as well as a little of hard knocks of life taught us how to persevere through tough situations and that is the same or even more so today.
Life today is complex and messy, it always has been but if you ask most people it seems more so. Children have complex living situations, different challenges and lots going on which is hard to keep up. Both parents may be working full time opposite hours which makes pick up and drop off different everyday or there may be a situation where parents are living with family members during a transition and that causes life to be different for a time. At this time, caregivers may need to prepare the youngsters in the household a little more for even the little changes like someone coming home late or a different pick up through more discussions/reminders, maybe having a written schedule for the day (with pictures if possible) and more frequent check ins to how things are going.
Children don’t have the same experience, background knowledge and coping skills as adults so they need more support and guidance as well as teaching them how to get through big life changes when things don’t go as planned. Here are few things to watch for and strategies to try when children may be needing support:
- Recognize that children are aware that things are amiss, try to share with them the information that they need to know to not get insecure and be reassured that their needs will continue to be met. Make sure to be developmentally appropriate with the information that they are given. Give them tidbits of information then let them ask questions, this helps to guide the discussion and find out what is on their mind which may be totally different from what you may think is difficult for them.
- Watch for changes in sleeping, eating and behavior and take into consideration that the cause of this may be insecurity or that they are struggling with the change- Teach versus punish- Listen to their thoughts.
- Provide tools like visual schedules, extra attention and extra sensitivity but remain consistent with expectations as big changes are not an excuse for poor behavior and parents/caregivers need to keep children accountable.
- Teach skills and share stories about your own experiences with changes that were out of your own control or things that weren’t going so well and how you worked through it. Give children tools to calm themselves if they feel worried or anxious, talk about what to do if they can’t sleep or how to ask for help if they are having trouble
When we prepare children and help them cope through the ups and downs of life at an early age, they are better prepared to take control as adults when things go downhill. They will be able to more easily rise up stronger and better.
By Tiffany Madsen