Sometimes as parents, we have to make the decision to put our family through a big life change. Whether it’s a big move, a lifestyle change, or the removal or addition of a relationship, it can be hard on little ones.
We recently uprooted and moved back to our home state. As we try to adjust while temporarily living with my in-laws and trying to find a reliable source of steady income, we are learning and growing every step of the way.
It’s frustrating, exhausting, and at times overwhelming. My husband and I are navigating our way through keeping up our parental standards in a house full of differing opinions. We’re trying to manage our toddler’s behavior when he is now surrounded by his playful cousins every day. Not to mention, we’re still trying to find our way financially. It’s not easy, but the future looks bright.
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Helping Little Ones Manage Big Life Changes
There’s simply no way to shelter them completely from the challenges that lie ahead for your little ones. But, luckily, there are a few ways to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Prepare for your life change
If you know you’ll be making a big life change soon, start preparing the kids earlier ASAP. Planning a move soon? Try out that temporary crib a few days before so your baby can get used to it before they are in a new environment. Or get your toddler accustomed to living without some of their usual comforts ahead of time. It could help to prevent tantrums during the move.
Before we moved, we packed up the majority of our son’s toys and left him with a select few. This began the transition from having full access to every toy he owned to making due with what was available. Sometimes giving kids less to work with gives them a reason to use their imagination!
When it comes to a life change that offers a longer transition, try to ease your little ones into the change. Take lifestyle changes slow. If you can, introduce new relationships in small doses at a time. New significant others, babysitters, or a friend or family can all be positive changes when introduced correctly.
In whatever way you can, maintain the normalcy your kiddos are used to. If you are moving, try to have their own bed and special toys available when they arrive at your new home. If you’ll be spending less time with them than usual, and a babysitter will be coming in, make sure they still get to do their usual evening activities with you and maybe step them up a notch.
You know that feeling of finally arriving at home after a long day? You feel like you can take a breath, relax, and let the day go. Providing even the simplest of comforts can give your little ones that same feeling after a long day of adjustments.
My husband and I have realized how important my son’s alone time is. And by alone time, I mean hanging out in a room with us watching a show he loves and just doing his thing. As a work at home mom, this was what I was able to provide as his daily norm. I would work, and he would play independently. No distractions. When his day is jam-packed with social activity, tantrums ensue.
Routine is key
Kids thrive under routine. This becomes particularly noticeable when you’re dealing with a big life change. While they are adjusting to new people, places or things, try to maintain some sense of routine.
Keeping consistent bedtimes, regular special time spent with you or your spouse, or expected traditions can help your kids feel like things are still safe and secure. It shows them there’s no reason to be scared about the changes taking place.
If your toddler’s day is out of whack, but he still gets his afternoon nap, he’ll likely have a better day. And if you’ve just moved into a new home, it’s probably not the best idea to have a babysitter tucking your kids in that first night. The usual routine of daddy’s silly stories or mommy’s snuggles could be just what they need.
For my son, sleep is the biggest factor. If he goes to bed on time and naps on time, all is well. Throughout our many chaotic days lately, I’ve continued to make his sleep schedule a priority.
Accept the challenges
When life gets a little crazy, kids can react in a variety of ways. If they act out or seem a little distant, recognize that this may just be a temporary phase during the life change. As you go into the life change, be ready for this possibility so that you don’t accidentally lash out when your typically well-behaved child rebels.
As challenging as it may be, you have to strike a balance between being patient and understanding when negative behavior may be tied to the changes while making sure not to bend to their every desire and create new bad habits. It’s a fine line and challenging for any parent, but it’s important to think through your reactions carefully.
One of the biggest struggles for us right now is balancing the act of letting our little man play with his cousins, but making sure to enforce the same behavioral standards we did before the move. Luckily, my sister-in-law and I agree on most things but, after having three kids, she’s on a different level. I haven’t quite mastered the art of letting certain things go and, with only one little one to care for, I’m not ready to.
As a new mom, I spent so much time and effort trying to avoid a life change that could potentially disrupt my son’s day-to-day. But life isn’t that simple, especially when you’re still finding your way as a young family.
After plenty of changes and some very uncertain times, I’ve come to realize how positive change can be. While stability is important for children, introducing them to situations where they are forced to adapt is a great way to prepare them for the real world.
So, when life throws a disruption your way, take the challenge head-on. Show your little ones what it looks like to thrive no matter the circumstance. Build your strength as a family, teach your children valuable lessons, and learn a few things yourself along the way!
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