Approaching the New Year: Handling change

This time of year brings about a great deal of change, even if it is as simple as change in routine. Children are home for Winter break and are setting back into normalcy following the holiday season. If there was a loss in the family over the last year, the holidays are a time when their absence is emphasized. On the other hand, the holidays are also a time when children are around many family members. This could be something they are not accustomed to. It is important to know that these familial situations impact children, too. Then, soon enough, they will be preparing to return to school, changing their pace once again. Parents should know how these shifts affect a child as their response to this change can be represented by challenging behaviors. As we dismiss the holiday season and merge into the new year, consider the following topics dealing with children and handling change.

Talk to your children, no matter how elementary their thought pattern seems.

Don’t assume that they are not aware of the conversations and situations around them. Always keep the conversation age-appropriate, but prompt children which questions to know how they feel. It is not uncommon for children to blame themselves for a negative situation, such as the loss of another person. The goal is not to make children understand, but to reassure them of their belongingness and security. A feeling of security is vital to a child’s emotional development, which impacts their physical and mental well-being. If your family has experienced trauma this year and you are worried about how it is impacting your child, refer to this article on “What Kids Say About: Handling Stress” from KidsHealth for more information and consider talking to a professional.

Prepare them in advance about upcoming changes.

As the return back to school approaches, gleam a positive light on school and encourage your child to mentally prepare for the change in routine. Some open-ended questions that might reveal how your child is feeling about returning to school are, “who are you most excited to see?” or “what subject are you looking forward to learning about the most?” Children can be fearful of the unknown. Take this opportunity to reveal what your child is thinking about school and correct thought patterns that are unhealthy or display information that is not true.

Keep in mind that the first morning back to school can be a rude awakening. A parent’s role is to help their children learn ways to prepare for what is coming, especially when it is not enjoyable, so that one day they can be independent and find ways to do this on their own.

Pointers:

  • Invite your child to pick out a great outfit they will wear on their first day back. This is something you can do together and sets their mind with a positive perspective about returning to school. This is also one less “to-do” on the morning they return.
  • Plan a back to school breakfast. Allow you children to make requests for the menu. Even though it may require extra effort on the parents’ end to wake up earlier, it will set a positive tone for the Spring semester and give children the opportunity to return to school feeling their best.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.

This is one of the simplest ways to keep children’s emotional state stable even in the midst of change. Knowing that there are no plans for the next day may create a lax approach to bedtimes. However, whether or not a child gets enough sleep can be clearly seen in their attitudes and behaviors, such as inattention and irritability. Though they may not have to wake up in the morning for a specific activity, it is beneficial to keep the sleep routine as regular as possible to create a smooth transition back to school. 

The New Year should be a positive, relaxing time for the whole family. Keeping structure and open communication at home promote stability and positive emotional development in a child’s life. This way, the change that comes with the New Year can be welcomed positively.

Be proactive in making sure that the time your children are spending at home during Winter break and their transition back to school happen harmoniously.

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