How to Help Your Kids With Big Adjustments

How to Help Your Kids With Big Adjustments

Change is hard, and most people out there don’t like big life ones. They can be scary, they can disrupt the order and routine in your life, and they come with a lot of questions. Big life changes can be very hard for many adults; however, they may be even harder for kids, who can’t quite grasp or understand the reason behind them.

When you make big changes in a child’s life, they’ll likely be scared, confused, and may even feel helpless or as though they don’t have a say in what’s happening. As a parent, or the important person in your child’s life, you’re in a perfect position to help him or her adjust to anything life throws their way. Whether you’re moving to a new state, a friend is moving away, or a sibling is going to college, here’s how you can help your child with any big adjustment in their life:

Prepare them.

No one likes to be blindsided. Whether you have teens or young ones, make sure they are aware of the change that’s about to happen and do your best to help them understand why it’s happening. Give them ample time to prepare, both mentally and physically. The more upfront, straightforward, and honest you are with your children, the easier the transition will be. Try to talk to your child about the challenges that may arise in the new situation and ease their mind that everything will be okay. The more prepared they are, the better they will be able to adjust.

Do your research.

Be prepared to talk your child through everything that is happening. The more prepared you are, the more prepared you can help your child be.

Answer their questions honestly.

There’s no doubt that children will have questions about whatever new situation awaits them. Maybe they’re going off to college and are nervous about what their experience will be like. It may help to tell them about your own experience. Be honest with them. Even if your kids are young, being open and honest will not only make any transition easier, it will also let them know that you respect them enough to answer them openly and this will help to build their trust in you. When going through a big change, your child needs to know they have someone on their side who they can talk to. This will help make them feel that way.

Keep as much the same as possible.

If possible, only give your child one big change at a time. Too much all at once will likely overwhelm them. While one area of their life may be drastically changing, try to keep everything else as normal as possible.

Let them be upset and take time to adjust

It’s not unlikely that when your child first learns of some adjustment they’ll need to make in their life, they might be upset. Everyone needs time to adjust to news and new situations. If your child isn’t happy with what’s changing, that’s ok. It doesn’t mean they won’t be happy eventually. Either way, give them time to adjust to what’s happening in their lives. Don’t try to talk them out of being upset or angry. Just let them feel what they feel.

Get them excited.

Many times, change can be fun. Whatever it is that’s happening, talk to your child about all the good things that will come of it. Moving to a new city? There will be so many new places to explore and new friends to make. Sibling going off to school? Now you’ll get so much more time with mom and dad. Keep yourself positive and excited and hopefully that enthusiasm will rub off on your child as well.

Give them the option to talk to someone else.

Maybe you can’t make your child feel better about the big change that’s happening. That’s completely okay. Give your child the option of talking to someone else, who may be able to help guide them through a tough or challenging time. Children can sometimes feel more comfortable talking to someone other than a parent, so if they need it, make sure, to give them that option. You can also look in your area for a professional that specialises in counseling children.

Having kids can be the biggest change that happens to anyone, and for the next 18 years, those children will also go through many changes for the first time – friends moving away, siblings going off to college, moving to take a new job. These things may seem like a very normal part of life – and they are – but it’s important to remember that for your kids, these new experiences are the beginning of a brand new kind of normal, and something that might take a little time to adjust to.


About the Author: Charity Ritter LISW-S

Charity Ritter MSW LISW is one of the founders of LIVE Wellness Center, Ltd. Charity received her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work from The Ohio State University. Charity holds a License as a Licensed Independent Social Worker in the State of Ohio. She received her training working with adults at Riverside Methodist Hospital in the Psychiatric Inpatient unit as well as outpatient counselling at Vineyard Counseling Center.

After receiving her degree, she worked with children and families at the Rosemont Center where she received training and experience in working with children and families with a variety of mental and behavioral health issues. She received experience working with sexually reactive youth and in advocating for and providing outpatient therapy for children and families with significant mental health and behavioral health issues.

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Today was an ending and a beginning. My darling girl finished year 12. The final year at school is tough enough, but this year was seismic. Our teens have moved through this year with the most outstanding courage and grace and strength, and now it is time for them to rest and play. My gosh they deserve it. 

It is true that this is a time of celebration, but it can also be an intense time of self-reflection for our teens. (I can remember the same feelings when my gorgeous boy finished so many years ago!) My daughter has described it as, ‘I feel as though I’ve outgrown myself but my new self isn’t ready yet.’ This just makes so much sense. 

There is a beautifully fertile void that is waiting for whatever comes next for each of them, but that void is still a void. At different times it might feel exciting, overwhelming, or brutal in its emptiness.

We also have to remember that this is a time of letting go, and there might be grief that comes with that. Before they can grab on to their next big adventure, they have to let go of the guard rails. This means gently adjusting their hold on the world they have known for the last 12+ years, with its places and routines and people that have felt like home on so many days. There will be redirects and shiftings, and through it all the things that need to stay will stay, and the things that need to adjust will adjust. 

To my darling girl, your loved incredible friends, and the teens who make our world what it is - you are the beautiful  thinkers, the big feelers, the creators, the change makers, and the ones who will craft and grow a better world. However you might feel now, the lights are waiting to shine for you and because of you. The world beyond school is opening its arms to you. That opening might happen quickly, or gently, or smoothly or chaotically, but it will happen. This world needs every one of you - your voices, your spirits, your fire, your softness, your strength and your power. You are world-ready, and we are so glad you are here xxx
When our kids or teens are in high emotion, their words might sound anxious, angry, inconsolable, jealous, defiant. As messy as the words might be, they have a good reason for being there. Big feelings surge as a way to influence the environment to meet a need. Of course, sometimes the fallout from this can be nuclear.
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Wherever there is a big emotion, there will always be an important need behind it - safety, comfort, attention, food, rest, connection. The need will always be valid, even if the way they’re going about meeting it is a little rough. As with so many difficult parenting moments, there will be gold in the middle of the mess if we know where to look. 
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There will be times for shaping the behaviour into a healthier response, but in the middle of a big feeling is not one of those times. Big feelings are NOT a sign of dysfunction, bad kids or bad parenting. They are a part of being human, and they bring rich opportunities for wisdom, learning and growth. .
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Parenting isn’t about stopping the emotional storms, but about moving through the storm and reaching the other side in a way that preserves the opportunity for our kids and teens to learn and grow from the experience - and they will always learn best from experience. 
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To calm a big feeling, name what you see, ‘I can see you’re disappointed. I know how much you wanted that’, or, ‘I can see this feels big for you,’ or, ‘You’re angry at me about .. aren’t you. I understand that. I would be mad too if I had to […],’ or ‘It sounds like today has been a really hard day.’ 
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When we connect with the emotion, we help soothe the nervous system. The emotion has done its job, found support, and can start to ease. 
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When they ‘let go’ they’re letting us in on their deepest and most honest emotional selves. We don’t need to change that. What we need to do is meet them where they and gently guide them from there. When they feel seen and understood, their trust in us and their connection to us will deepen, opening the way for our influence.
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When they are at that line, deciding whether to retreat to safety or move forward into brave, there will be a part of them that will know they have what it takes to be brave. It might be pale, or quiet, or a little tumbled by the noise from anxiety, but it will be there. And it will be magical. Our job as their flight crew is to clear the way for this magical part of them to rise. ‘I can see this feels scary for you - and I know you can do this.’ 
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When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
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What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
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Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️

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