5 Strategies to Support Children Through Change

Transitions can be seen as any changes that a child may experience and are a part of life for us all.

These changes may impact on children’s lives over a period of time or may be considered a change in the moment, such as when a child is briefly upset about something without a lasting effect.

Children do not have an innate understanding of emotions and need to be taught the words for the feelings that they have (MoE, 2017). They also need to be reassured that what they are experiencing is a natural part of life.

What are some of the moments in a child’s life that can be seen as transition or change moments? These could be a new sibling (new baby or blending of families), separation or divorce (absentee parent); death of a loved one; moving house, town or country; transition to a centre or school.

The New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki (MoE, 2017) highlights that children refine and develop more complex working theories as they learn. The theories that children develop when faced with change may not seem logical to the adult, however to the child they are based on their own existing knowledge at that time. Children will use their existing knowledge to try to make sense of the changes that occur.

The way that teachers and parents choose to respond to transition and the way they acknowledge the feelings of the child, will impact on the child’s resilience and ability to cope with transition or develop self-regulation.

Here are 5 ways you can support children through change:

Remember that children feel our emotions, so start by acknowledging and regulating your own feelings about the big change. Once you’re composed and ready to guide your child through this time of transition, try the 5 strategies below. These effective strategies will help your child feel safe, adjust, and build resilience.

1. Give Them Time to Prepare

When preparation is an option, give your child plenty of warning that a major change is coming. This allows them time to process and begin to accept the change.

2. Focus on positives

Having a positive outlook and being able to approach and manage change in positive and constructive ways is critical to success in life. Early transitions provide one of the best opportunities to develop the skills and dispositions we need to live and do well in a changing world.

3. Read books or do activities they are about big life changes

There are plenty of children’s books written to help kids cope with major life changes. Alongside activities where children can discuss their worries and learn about naming


4. Keep routines the same

Clear and predictable routines help children know what to expect.

Take your lead from your child as much as possible. Actively involving your child in establishing and then managing their morning routine helps them to feel capable and builds independence.

5. Provide play and connection

Another thing that should remain consistent is your child’s connection with you.

Make sure your child knows that no matter what else changes, you aren’t going anywhere, and neither is the bond you have with your

A little extra attention and parent-child playtime reassure your child that your love and care will remain consistent, making it much easier to cope with changes in other aspects of life.

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