The only thing that is constant in our lives is change. Of course children thrive on consistency and routine. It's our jobs as parents to help guide our children through the inevitable change that will occur in their daily routines, particularly as the school year approaches.
Anything that disrupts a child's normal activities can make your life a little more challenging as a parent - moving to a new house, arrival of a new sibling, a road trip/vacation, babysitter coming over, start of the school year, or in the case of daycare, moving up to a classroom of peers.
Start talking to your child/children about the upcoming routine change as soon as you can. Sometimes I don't have much lead time to prep my 2 year old, but I let him know as far in advance as possible that something will be different to his routine. If I have a sitter scheduled for the following night, I tell him while I'm bathing him and getting him ready for bedtime that his babysitter will be with him tomorrow and will be handling the bedtime routine.
This is often met with protests and lots of “no’s," but I reassure him that everything will be fine and mommy and daddy will see him when we return.
When I have lead time of a few weeks to a few months (such as moving to a new house or the change to a new school), I often will talk about the upcoming change, speak about it positively and include him when going to the new location. For instance, when I had to drop off paperwork at his new school I took him with me so he can start to become familiar with the building and the people who work there.
When I drive past his new school, I will reinforce that that is his new school and he will have new teachers and new friends. I tell him the name of the school and when the change will occur for him, even though he still can't grasp time just yet, I do talk about it with him.
I've seen him react very positively to these types of small doses of information.
I do this to make him aware of the changes and minimize any surprises and ultimately any outbursts or tantrums. It helps that we speak positively about the change in his routine in order to prepare him for it. There is always an adjustment period, but talking about it beforehand helps him understand and expect that things will be different in the near future.
When we were moving into a new house, I would talk to him about the upcoming move as much as possible. Driving past the house in the neighborhood and say that’s our new house. "You're going to have a new bedroom!" He often would repeat "new house, new house" whenever we were near the new house. When we finally moved in, the adjustment period lasted 3 weeks. He was out of sorts and woke up almost every night - after sleeping through the night for over a year. But we were patient with him (and I drank a lot of coffee during those 3 weeks of interrupted sleep), but he soon settled into the new surroundings.
To help with a smooth transition in changes to your child's routine and world, preparing your child is key:
- Talk about the upcoming change as soon as you can
- Speak positively about the change
- Reassure the child that everything will be ok and mommy & daddy are always available
- During the adjustment period, be patient, supportive, and compassionate to their upsets, fears, or worries.
Following the guidelines I outlined here will hopefully minimize any major upsets to their day-to-day and get back to a new stable routine as quickly as possible.
- Jennifer R, Parent