Parenting Resource

Coping with Change

Mar 5, 2009

Children vary in how they cope with and tolerate both everyday changes, like a new jacket, and larger changes, like moving to a new house.

Children vary in how they cope with and tolerate both everyday changes, like a new jacket, and larger changes, like moving to a new house. Some children find changes particularly difficult. Even though young children are well known for being inflexible about their routines, some children seem to be even more dependent on them to feel safe and secure. These “keep-it-the-same children” tend to react to even the smallest of changes—a new nipple on the bottle, a new food on their plate, or a slight change in a regular routine; thrive on daily routines to feel safe and secure (They have more difficulty making transitions such as between lunch and naptime.); and need lots of time and support to get comfortable in new surroundings or with new people.

For the children in your care who prefer to keep it the same, try the following strategies:

  • Use familiar objects, like a stuffed animal, to ease anxiety during transitions such as morning drop-off. You can also let the child have some control over the transition. Ask him if he wants to kick the ball one more time before leaving the park.
  • Ease into new activities. Talk about new activities first before doing them in order to allow this child to get comfortable. Then offer advance notice when an activity is about to end: “When this book is finished, we’re leaving the library and going home.”

Other children “go with the flow.” They tend to find new jackets, new friends, new foods, and new babysitters interesting and adapt pretty well wherever you take them. They are usually not upset by changes to routines. They are okay even when their nap is pushed a little late or if they don’t get their favorite cup for lunch.

For the children in your care who go with the flow, try the following strategies:

  • Offer a variety of experiences. Try a new park, check out the local pool for water play, or visit the library for story hour. Let them know about new situations and activities ahead of time. Children who enjoy new things also enjoy talking about them and looking forward to them.
  • Be sensitive to their signals. When a child is easygoing, we can sometimes take for granted that any change is okay. Offer extra support during the times when a child is having trouble with a transition.

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