Changes can be scary, fun, thrilling, frustrating and wonderful all at the same time. This applies to our kids as much as to ourselves. Even when the change might be unpleasant, it still needs planning and care to be presented to your children, but where do we start when things feel so overwhelming at times? Are we really making the best choices for our family?
You are a good parent, you are enough. Interactions with your kids should be a fun teaching and learning experience. These interactions don't have to be—and will not be—perfect every time. Let go of those expectations and enjoy your time together learning and changing.
In order to help you and your family succeed with new challenges and changes, we've put together a list of 10 small steps you can take to help support your kids and keep the mood positive and reflective as you tackle your next big change.
1. Create the Right Environment
Creating the proper environment is a great small step to ensure that the environment matches the new item you are introducing to your child.
Are you creating a new study and homework schedule, beginning to homeschool, or starting tutoring? Create a nice new study space for your son to engage with this change.
Perhaps you are going to add a new family member to your household? Encourage your daughter and involve her in the decisions she can help with. Can she choose the first family meal together? Would she be allowed to pick out a paint color for the nursery, or make a welcome book for a baby sibling?
Studies show we are greatly affected by our environments, so make sure to take this into account when preparing for a change at home.
2. Open Communication
Listen with intention and communicate honestly. Teaching your kids early to communicate openly and expressing that you will listen to understand them is vital. You can’t fix all their problems and you shouldn't, but you can equip them with the resources needed to face their problems on their own. Knowing they have someone that will listen is the first step.
3. Be Supportive
Kids do not need constant praise, but encouragement will instill courage in them. This can be as simple as talking through the decisions they made to reinforce good behavior and highlight improvement points.
4. Help Without Taking Over
It can be hard to resist fixing all of your child's problems and struggles for them. Watching them struggle is hard, but one day they will have to address these things on their own. It is much more important that you teach them how to deal with problems in the long run rather than making their life easier right now.
To do this, you can model problem solving by showing your children how you solve problems. Talk to your child about some of your mundane problems and prompt solutions from them. Then, work through your child's problems together. Ask your children questions throughout their decision-making process to prompt more in-depth thoughts. Give them a range of possibilities and ideas, and explore why some solutions are better than others.
5. Have Fun
Reframing how you approach tasks with your children can greatly improve the outcome. Approaching tasks from a fun-focused mindset instead of a list of chores and obligations will help interactions be more relaxed and result in less tension.
If you can, make a game out of the new task, or ask them to help make a fun and silly playlist, if appropriate, for your big change.
6. Forgive and Accept
No one is perfect—forgive yourself and your children. Accept that nothing will ever be perfect. Once you let go of expectations, mistakes become a learning tool instead of a tension point.
Share stories with your child about times you have made mistakes and how life would be different if you had not grown from it. Use examples from famous great failures and inventions if needed. A librarian can help you find great examples.
7. Take Breaks
Kids and adults alike benefit from taking breaks when learning new information. Once a topic has reached its natural end, take a break. When we actively rest, our mind can continue working on the change or new information. In this time, our brain decides what information to keep long term and how to store it.
Give attention to positive behavior with small and large rewards. This can be something simple like extra time doing an activity, going to a favorite place or visiting a friend or family member your child has been asking to see. Larger rewards can be things like toys, a favorite meal or food, visiting a place that costs money or a celebration.
9. Be Flexible
Try different approaches for each child depending on the day or mood. What works for one kid may not work for others, and what works one day may not work the next. Again, make sure that you do not fret and accept any missteps along the way. It is hard to do and learn new things.
10. Appreciation and Gratitude
Lastly, remember to take time every day to reflect on what you are grateful for, and practice this with your children. This does not mean that bad things don’t exist, but it is much easier to focus on problems and bad events than good ones. Reflecting on what you are grateful for helps highlight the good.
A great practice is asking your little one to keep a reflection and gratitude journal. Alternatively, ask them if they would like to share successes with you. You are both working hard on something new, and every little bit of progress, even mistakes we learn from along the way, are all places to reflect.