Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
I often blog about my family because working with children five and under and having grandchildren in that same age range has made it just too hard to resist. I see first-hand evidence of what I talk about lived out in my family.
This past weekend was no exception. Those who follow my blogs know that Sunday is family day and that our children and grandchildren gather for family lunch after church. Typically, the grandchildren ride with me (the fun grandmother) in my red sports car. We often put the top down and just have a blast.
Well … This weekend, I was between cars and had a rental because my new one wasn’t in. My little grandson is not yet old enough to express his opinion, but I told my grand girls about my new car. They had expressed that they love my car, so I assumed (incorrectly, as it turns out) that as long as I purchased another convertible that they would love whatever I chose. After all, as their mom explained to them, “Dee Dee is what makes the car fun, not the color of the car. Right?”
Change is tough, and children don’t like it any more than adults do. No matter how insignificant it might seem, some children and adults really struggle with change. My granddaughters have great affection for my little red car and are so upset by me trading it … so much so that it made me pause to reconsider if I really needed or even wanted the new one.
Here are some pointers to remember when addressing change with young children:
1. Be honest. Don’t try to sugar coat it. It may be tough for them to hear but don’t water it down and give them a conflicting message. Say it honestly and keep the message simple and direct.
2. Tell them as far in advance as you can. Children need time to process things so keep surprises to a minimum. They need to know that they can trust you to tell them about changes before they happen so that they can predict what is going to take place next.
3. Keep reassuring them in the areas that truly matter. I found myself saying on Sunday, “We will still have fun in the new car. We will make great memories in the new black one just like we did in the red one.” Our relationship isn’t going to change just because I decided to get a new car, and I wanted them to feel that our love would always be the same. I must say that I am not sure they believed me, but I kept repeating it.
4. Validate their concerns. I didn’t laugh at my granddaughters for being upset. Change is tough and as the quote states, “Nothing endures but change.” It’s here to stay so we need to know how to help our children cope. I understand that my girls feared losing the fun and the memories that we’d made in the cool red car. They needed to know that almost all of us sometimes feel sad when things change and that it’s okay to feel sad. I tried to reassure them that everything will feel better soon, but I can’t say that they were buying that either.
5. Keep communication open. Let children ask as many questions as they need to ask to feel better. I’m not sure we got to that point on Sunday, but I will keep encouraging them talk to me until we do. In the meantime, I might have to call the dealership and check into changing that black car back to red!