Helping Students Deal with Change
Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time around children knows that they don’t always handle change well. Anything ranging from an upset in their daily routine to a significant life changing event can trigger stress and frustration in a child. Often, the sudden pattern shift comes with a noticeable change in behavior. You might observe reactions such as emotional or physical outbursts, sudden shyness, visible signs of worry, or disruptive actions.
The stress that comes with adapting to change can affect a child’s ability to learn and negatively impact their education. It can be helpful for adults to have go-to techniques and resources to help children adjust and deal with the unexpected.
There are a number of ways to support children in times of transition and uncertainty. Not every technique will work for every child and in some cases, there may be little that you can do to minimize their reactionary distress. Still, here are a few ways that as a parent, guardian, or educator, you can help the child or children in your life navigate through change.
Help Them Prepare for the Change
If you know that a change is coming, one of the best things that you can do is to prepare beforehand. Even adults can struggle to function normally when faced with an unexpected circumstance — it’s human nature. Forewarning can give a kid time to get used to the new change that’s about to occur.
Preparing them for change can be as simple as explaining the upcoming event to them. You can have conversations about it leading up to the change. Ask what questions they may have or take note of how they respond. If you have a plan in place, you may want to share aspects of it, when appropriate.
One way to mitigate the stress caused by change is to encourage channeled self-expression.
Support them in activities such as:
- Drawing and Painting
- Talking to others
- Building and playing with toys or other materials
- Creating a song
- Playing a sport
- Playing a musical instrument
- Writing a story or a poem
- Enjoying a favorite hobby
Practice Stress Management Techniques
Having tools to manage stress can help kids learn to adapt when things don’t go as planned, especially in times when you’re not there with them. You can start by modeling stress management techniques in everyday situations. This is a subtle way to show your child that it’s possible to handle difficult situations. Over time, they may pick up the ways that you manage stress, giving them an example to mimic when they are in a similar scenario. If you want to take that idea a step further, you can practice techniques together.
No Two Children Are the Same
Even using the tips above, there may be times when feelings of distress are inevitable, despite efforts to mitigate the severity of the change. Additionally, every child has their own unique set of circumstances that may make them more or less prone to stress as a result of change. Giving the children in your life patience, understanding, and grace can help them feel supported and deal with change in a more positive way.