Big changes can be tough on kids, especially young children. They don’t always have the knowledge or verbal ability to understand or talk about what they are experiencing. As a result, they may express stress or difficulties through tantrums and regression. As moms, we sometimes wonder how to make these changes as easy as possible on our children and ourselves. (I like to avoid meltdowns whenever possible, and I’m sure you do too!)
A few years ago, my family was going through a lot of changes. I was about to have my second baby, and we were packing our house to move to Canada from Utah a few weeks after the baby was born. I was hoping to make all of these changes as easy as I could on my two-year-old.
I found a lot of books at the library about having a new baby that we read to help her understand what was going to happen once our baby was born, but the only books I could find about moving seemed a little old for her. Many had story lines about how sad the main character was to leave friends behind. This was not the message I wanted to convey about moving to my little one! I wanted her to understand why her clothes and toys were going to be put in boxes, that she would be able to have them back, and that we were saying goodbye to this house and neighborhood to go somewhere new and exciting. I wanted her to be able to predict what was coming next, because that would help make the transition easier. And I wanted her to feel secure during all the changes that she would be experiencing!
So, as an answer to my own problem, I wrote my own book! It was a simple book and had very simple pictures that I drew. I included information about each step of the moving process: packing, loading the truck, saying goodbye, and flying. Then I wrote about driving to our new home, unpacking, and making new friends. We kept the book with us during the move and read it often to help her know what to expect. She did really great with all the changes and loved reading her moving book! I think it helped her to feel more in control during all the changes with the move. Since then, I have created other books for my children, including one for transitioning to different children’s classes at church and another for starting the first day of school.
Through this, I’ve found that books with pictures are more age appropriate than an explanation about what is happening; the information is more concrete and it allows them to learn through repeated readings.
This book-making technique can be used in so many situations and can be modified to fit your circumstances! Kids that need medical procedures can find it helpful to know exactly what will happen during each step of their experience, which could make the time away from parents less scary. Maybe your family just had a new baby that has to stay in the NICU or a parent that is going to be away for some time. No matter what the change or situation may be, a book like this can help a young children understand what is happening during big or even small changes in their lives, making the transition easier on the whole family.
QUESTION: What changes are coming up in the near or not-so-near future for your children? How have you successfully prepared your children for changes in the past?
CHALLENGE: Take time to talk to your child about an upcoming change in her life. If you think it might be a difficult change, consider making a simple book, even if that just means he illustrates a few sentences you put together in book form.
Edited by Becky Fawcett and Amanda Lewis.
Images supplied by the author. Feature image graphics by Anna Jenkins
Originally published on January 14, 2016.