Change happens all around all the time and we all need to adapt to new things and new circumstances. This is no different for our children, they need to be flexible and open to change in order to experience life happily. These tips and strategies can help children feel confident, be successful, open to change and transitions and to go with the flow.
Support and encouragement can help your child through difficult times. Keep in mind that your child’s inflexibility may come from their fear of failure. Be patient and help your child relax and feel confident.
Praise your child for any sign of openness and/or flexibility, even when it is a small sign. Let your child know the good things that you observe. Let them know you are proud of them and be specific of what exactly it is that you liked. For example: instead of saying “great job” say “I really liked how you waited for your turn.”
Point out the positives and avoid the negatives.
Unexpected change can set off anyone, even the most adaptable, flexible child. For a child with difficulty coping with change and being flexible, this is a major challenge. Your child’s feelings about an imminent change are directly correlated to their understanding of what will be occurring.
Preparation is one thing you can do to make a plan change easier for your child. Children become less anxious and nervous if they know what to expect. When you know there is a change in plans, be proactive and let them know when, where, what. When it will happen, when will it occur and what to expect. The more details and information you can provide, the better.
Visuals can help get your message through to your child, especially if he or she becomes really stressed with unexpected events and has difficulty understanding what you say to them verbally. Draw up a schedule or a flow chart of what to expect and add times and places.
Transitions happen anytime a child is asked to stop one activity and move on to another. Often a transition includes not only a change in activity but a change in location. All of this change can create anxiety in most children. Try transition strategies to make it easier.
Understand the transition: Help your child understand the transition from start to finish. This is where schedules, flow charts and graphs come in handy. If you need to, write out exactly what they are expected to do and where they will be going.
Preparation: Let your child know exactly when they are expected to do something: Is it in 5 minutes, 10, a day? Give them the countdown or use a timer on your phone. For example: In 5 minutes you need to stop this activity and we are going in the car.
The move or transition: Some children know what they need to do, but can’t seem to get there. Give them a transition tool, toy or reminder. If you are going to the car, give them the keys and tell them they need to open the car for you. If it’s to another classroom, give them a book to place on the teacher’s desk. Some children respond well just having a toy that will remind them of where they are going, for example: a toy slide may remind them you are going to the playground, a skate means you are going skating, etc.
With new activities, it is a good idea to try them in a safe environment whenever possible, especially if your child is fearful. For example: If your child is afraid to go skating with his class, you might have your child practice skating either in a small environment, such as your neighborhood, or bring your child to the skating ring to get some experience. Support your child and build their confidence. Take pictures of your child having fun. Show them those pictures when anxiety starts to rise over the class outing.
Ask your child to attempt visualizing a positive outcome of a change he/she fears, encourage him/her to see of all the positive possibilities that such change might bring. This way your child will learn to think optimistically.
When a child feels optimistic about change, he/she will try new activities, will be open to change and will be using his/her energy in doing things and learning.
Help your child feel confident and trust/know he/she will be all right. Let your child know you believe in him/her, that they are very dear to you and that they should always know and remember that. Help them build the much needed self-confidence by letting them know how much they are loved and how much you want them to succeed and be happy.
When your child is about to try something new and you can perceive his/her anxiousness, persuade him/her to do it, tell him/her you have already been through the thought process to do this and now its time to try it out, to just do it and not think too much or go over thoughts and scenarios already explored. Be supportive and persuade your child to take action and do it.
Your child’s insecurity and fear of the unknown, of a new situation may cause them to express those feelings in an undesirable way. Make sure you address the cause of the misbehavior, knowing what is triggering it and teaching your child the skills to express those feelings with words in an acceptable manner.
When a child is inflexible, anxious and afraid of changes, they will be investing lots of energy in each change, in each transition. Each transition is seen by the child as an inconvenience that demands a lot of energy to deal with it. After many of these feared transitions happen, and many of them happen during each day, the child has used so much energy in them and he/she is burned out and becomes even less flexible, less adaptable, less tolerant to frustration. Thus becoming more irritable, afraid, and anxious with something that doesn’t seen to be that important or so energy demanding.
The consequence of this lack of adaptability skills can be seen through behaviors like sudden outbursts, aggressiveness, explosions, crying and running away, etc. Obviously these behaviors generate a terrible negative effect in the child’s relationships with the people around him, like parents, siblings, teachers, peers. Helping your child become more flexible can turn this around.
Do not let your child fall for catastrophic thinking. Catastrophic thinking is thinking in black and white, but ignoring the white. So it is really black thinking.
Does your child express their fears using generalization terms like “never”, “no one”, “everybody”, “always”? using statements like “nobody will want to play with me” or “I always do it wrong.” If this is your child’s case, challenge these statements and help your child develop a more balanced view of what might happen. When you keep on challenging your child’s catastrophic thinking over and over, he/she will learn to challenge it by himself and use it.
Do not criticize, instead show your understanding and concern and help your child visualize different outcomes, including some scenarios that your child fears. Help them visualize it in a more realistic way, visualize ways to accomplish better outcomes and if their fears actually happen, how best to deal with them.
Be there to support and encourage your child but realize sometimes it takes time. Don’t be impatient. Some children have strong defense mechanism that is firmly rooted in fear. It may be hard to put your finger of where this fear is coming from. Children often act without knowing they are acting this way. It is an automatic reaction based on fear or fear of failure. If you ask them why they are acting that way, they may honestly have no idea or they may grasp at any idea that sounds plausible. Support them and help them work through it.
Remember that power struggles or butting heads doesn’t help anyone, look for a compromise or a way to coax your child through the activity.
When a child is insecure and afraid of doing something, he/she has been thinking too much about the negative outcomes of that action or experience. This takes lots of energy and takes more of the child’s confidence away. Prolonging this situation will exhaust the child and result in a negative outcome, fulfilling the child’s fears.
When you know that your child is able to do something, is somehow convinced he can do it, even when fearful, don’t allow fearful thought to continue in their head, encourage him to do it, to just do it!
Be there for him/her, support your child with patience and love to enhance his/her confidence and action.
When you see your child is adapting to change, even small accomplishments, please do not ignore them. It is an accomplishment for your child that is good for him/her and also for you. It is always a good idea to point out, praise and appreciate the things, attitudes, and actions you want to be happening more. By praising them you encourage your child to do more of what you want, when you ignore it your child does not necessarily get the message that this is the way to go.
Flexibility is a critical developmental skill that children develop as they grow up, however some children just don’t develop this skill early in life. Help your child develop this skill by teaching them the right skills to do so, being their guide and support all along the way. Keep in mind an adaptable child is a happier child, and their family is happier too as transitions happen in a smooth way.
More expert advice about Tackling Family Problems and Conflict
Photo Credits: Marmion/bigstock.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com