How to Help Anxious Kids Deal with Life Changes
The only constant in life is change. That’s not good news for our anxious kids. Even small changes can cause anxious children to go into a tailspin. So how can you help anxious kids deal with all the changes life will throw at them?
The key is planning and perspective.
To watch my kids Youtube video on this topic scroll to the bottom of the page.
Help Anxious Kids by Giving Them a Warning
Anxious kids are planners. They want to know the who, what and why of everything! If a change is happening you want to give them as much detail as possible. The more they can visualize what is happened, the better. Even if you don’t think it is an important detail, your child might disagree. I typically walk my kids through the most minute of detail when change is approaching.
For some kids, too much detail might be overwhelming. Not all anxious kids are the same. You know your anxious child, so do what works for them.
Timing is Everything
There is a balancing act when it comes to when you should inform anxious kids about change. If your child is scheduled for surgery or something that will invoke intense fear, it doesn’t make sense to tell them way in advance.
Having said that, no warning for something fear-provoking can cause acute distress if there is little time to mentally prepare.
Balance is key.
Give your child enough time to process the change, but not too much time to perseverate over it. That can be tricky to say the least. Some rumination may be hard to avoid.
Calendars are a gift when trying to help anxious kids. Put one up in your child’s room so they can see the change coming. This will help decrease the zillions of questions about when this change is occurring.
If a visual reminder is too stress producing, don’t hang one up. As I said before, some anxious kids respond differently. When in doubt, ask your child if a calendar would help or make them more anxious.
Prepare your Anxious Child
The more you can prepare your child, the better. How you prepare them depends on what type of change they are going through.
Can you tour it first?
Can you arrange to meet the teacher ahead of time?
Can you have your child play on their playground?
Can they view it before you move?
Can you drive by it?
Can you play in the new neighborhood park?
Can you give your child a calendar with the schedule?
Can you tell your child what life will look like?
Can you tell your child what parent is responsible for what?
Can you help your child process what happens at death? This will depend on your belief system.
Can you read books on grief that are age appropriate?
Can you talk about where their friend is going?
Can you talk about ways they can communicate?
Can you talk about how friendships can be maintained?
Talk About What is Staying the Same
One of the most comforting aspects of change is what is staying the same. It can be very grounding for your child to focus on what is NOT changing. Highlight with your child all the areas that will remain the same.
Here is some help… Are some of these areas staying the same?
-At least one house
Talk to your child about what areas of their life are not changing.
Don’t Sugar Coat Change
You don’t want your child to drown in sorrow, but you don’t want to discount their struggle either.
Validate your child’s feelings about the change.
As cheesy as that sounds, it is important to vocalize to your child that you understand how difficult this change is for them.
When you swoop in and cheerlead how awesome this change is – your child might feel like you don’t understand them.
It is okay if your child has a transitionary period where they are less than thrilled about the change. In fact, anxious kids take longer typically to bounce back after a transition. Give your child space and time.
Allow them the time to process the change.
Help Change Perspective
Some anxious kids feel the grass is always greener on the other side. They might seem very negative about this life change. They might constantly compare their old life to their new life.
You can help anxious kids by shifting their perspective without discounting their struggle.
You can do this by:
#1) Validating their current feelings
#2) Offering a new perspective
#1) I know you didn’t want to change schools. I get that this is super hard for you. I know you loved your old school more but…
#2) We won’t ever be able to send you back to the old school. That won’t ever be an option. I’m sorry that makes you sad. I know this will take time for you to get used to. I did notice they have a [fill in the blank] class. That sounds like fun.
Empathize with your child.
Let them know this change cannot be reversed.
Give your child something new to focus on.
Accept they won’t be content through this change.
Want some extra help? Have your child watch this kids Youtube video. Don’t have time? Click here to subscribe and watch it later.