Change is a guaranteed part of life. We all go through it at one point or another, and sometimes it happens in a big way. For kids, this can be pretty scary and disruptive to their mental health. At Equity Associates, we’re here to provide you tips on how to help your child cope with these big life changes.
The Brain on Change
As young children, learning is a part of the job, and change is a part of the normal landscape. But as we grow, our brain gets used to things we’ve already experienced and learned, and it creates “mental shortcuts” to process the familiar more quickly. Big changes are often seen as unknowns, so our brains see them as negative. For children experiencing big changes for the first time, it can be especially scary and cause anxiety and stress.
For children, these big changes can include:
- Social – moving to an unfamiliar place, troubles at school, or fights with friends.
- Family – family conflict, divorce, or re-marriage of a parent.
- Health – getting very sick, or receiving an injury from an accident.
When big life changes occur, it can often trigger a temporary condition called adjustment disorder. This is an emotional or behavioral reaction to a stressful event or change in a person’s life. In children, an adjustment disorder usually manifests itself in behavioral symptoms, like acting out. Medication isn’t necessary if your child is dealing with this, but there are ways you can help them cope with big changes.
Tips for Helping Your Child Cope
Being consistent is an important tool you can use to help your child cope. Children crave predictability and structure. So, things like moving to a new city or going through a divorce can create chaos and stress.
Keeping certain things consistent will help them find sturdy anchors in the confusion. These anchors will remind them that some things are still the same and can give their brains a little bit of rest. Going to walk the dog at 4:30 pm each day, having the same bedtime, and even maintaining consistent discipline will help them manage their feelings.
Teach Stress Management
As much as we want to protect our children from trauma, we can’t always do that, and we can’t prevent them from experiencing stress. Experiencing stress is a part of life, and teaching them to deal with it healthily will set your child up for success in the future.
At some point or another, they’ll deal with a big change in their life. Give them the skills they need to cope with those circumstances to build their mental strength. This can include:
- Encouraging rational thinking. Help your child understand what’s real and what isn’t. For example, help them understand that their behavior did not cause a divorce or that they are not a failure because they failed a test.
- Let feelings out. Diverse feelings are normal! Invite your child to talk, laugh, cry, or be angry when they need to.
- Write or draw. Older children might find it helpful to write or journal about what’s bothering them. Younger children may be helped by drawing those things.
Help Them Focus on What They Can Control
One of the hardest things about big life change is how helpless it can make people feel, especially children. To help, tell them that while there are some things they can’t control, there are other things they can.
You can show them that they can control their reactions to situations, how they start their day, what they have for breakfast, and how they treat themselves and others. It can be comforting to know that even when things are changing, there are still things they have control over.
Finding support is a great way to help your child cope with big life changes. It might seem drastic, but it’s never too early for a child to see a counselor or therapist. Letting your child speak to a counselor can help improve your child’s mental health and give them more tools they can use to handle big changes in the future.
Let Equity Associates Help
Big life changes in children’s lives can be hard and cause them stress, anxiety, and even depression. Equity Associates is here to help your child get through it. Our services are highly personalized for one’s unique needs and with our usage of telemental health, those seeking treatment can do so in the comfort of their home. We’re based in Ridgway, Colorado, but can help those anywhere in the state. No matter what, we’re always here to support those who need us.