Does your child hate change? A child’s hypersensitivity to change can make every day life very difficult on the parents. With a sensitive 8 year old son that despises change, the entire family learned to dread an inevitable upcoming change of any kind. Watching a “mole hill” turn into a “mountain” with a child that hates change was quite disturbing and concerning for us.
From changing my son’s baseball glove, to repainting his room or getting a new lunch box, it’s all a really big challenge for him that I have a hard time relating to.
After many tears and my attempt to surprise him with an inevitable change, I then realized I was doing it all wrong. The truth is, if we don’t teach our children how to cope with change properly, they will eventually have to deal with this issue as an adult, but likely in much more difficult circumstances.
As any adult would agree, change is a natural, ongoing part of life. While some more sensitive or high anxiety personalities have a harder time with change, we would be doing our children an injustice if we continue to cater to the anxiety and prevent natural changes from occurring.
The act of realizing that everything will in fact be ok, after the change occurs, is an important factor for the child to experience. With children thriving on stability, being removed from a comfort zone is never easy. I will share a few strategies that I have learned through trial and error.
Communication is key
The first step towards facing an upcoming change is communication about the change. Prevent surprises if possible. Just like the changing of the seasons is often a welcome change, some changes can be exciting!
That new baseball glove was very hard for my son to get familiar with, but after he did, he wouldn’t dare consider using that old, small baseball glove again. Discussing a change in advance is the best route.
Focus on the positive
Once the change has occurred, then discuss the positive impacts of that change and the fact that we survived it! This creates a confidence that will help with the next challenge they face. Be intentional about watching for these opportunities and make the most out of them.
If a room needs to be painted, for example, discuss it well in advance. If you child can make a choice in the matter, that is even better. Discuss the steps in the process and the expected outcome. Creating these challenges is also good practice.
Think of a change you could make that would allow your child to experience a positive, yet uncomfortable change. Possibly redecorating their bedroom, or starting a new sport and meeting new friends.
Help them get out of their comfort zone
Getting out of a comfort zone is a learned skill. It can be learned either early in life, or later in life. Responding to a child’s anxiety with anxiety is the worse response a child can receive. Compassion and sympathy should be given during these difficult times. A child needs to be understood, even if it makes zero sense to the parent at the time.
As children experience life, naturally these changes will effect the way they respond to them. Family deaths, change in residence, a new school or moving to a new town are all instances that build on a child’s ability to react outside of their comfort zones.
While it will likely be an ongoing learning process and often uncomfortable, life will only be harder without gaining the necessary skills to cope and then experiencing success on the other side. Start now and be intentional, your child needs your support, and you are the most important person in their life to give it to them.
If you found this post useful you may also enjoy these tips on disciplining a sensitive child.