I’ve been thinking about change recently. With Christmas and the change in routines, then back to school and work and the readjustments again to the routine, and then this week with the snow that routine has gone out the window again and change rears it’s ugly head once more. Of course for us adults change can be as good as a rest. A snow day on Friday seemed to create a great sense of freedom, fun and family. But now three days later – another snow day – not quite the same reaction from others I see on Facebook.
For those of you who have adopted children or work with children who’ve experienced trauma you will know that change can be very difficult for them. Routine creates a feeling of predictability which in turns brings a feeling of safety – when you know what is coming next you can relax and enjoy the moment you’re in. For children who are anxious about what might happen next the unpredictability of change can trigger those stress responses within them which makes it difficult for them to then regulate their emotions. Mine are forever asking what is happening next. It’s like they can’t relax and settle into something until they know what is coming after it, to the extent that sometimes we have to have a daily schedule on the board so they know what is happening.
Predictability is the biggest thing I have found that helps alleviate some of the anxiety for my children. As much as you can, try and keep to the things you say you will do. I’ve realised with this that sometimes you have to withhold some information from your children until you know it will definitely happen, especially if you have friends who may change arrangements at the last minute. I tell my children something is going to happen only when it is within my power to make it happen, or that I know for certain things will not change. We had one example of this one day this week when we were expecting some friends to come round to play. One of them decided not to come at the last minute and I had told my children they were coming as the other siblings did come. The fact that one didn’t was quite disappointing for one of my kids, but with all the will in the world you can’t control everything and make things exactly as you would like it.
So how can you handle the unpredictabilities of life for your children?
1) As much as possible tell them what you know is going to happen. Only the things you are definite on and even then you may have to pre-empt some changes of plans (i.e. the weather).
2) Tell others about the importance of predictability for your children. When making arrangements make sure the other people involved are sensitive to the feelings of insecurity changes can bring.
3) When things do change or things don’t happen as you’d like (which is a constant reality), keep your children close, comfort them and reassure them that they are safe and that things will work out.
4) Have a back up plan. If you are arranging something you know they will love but then have to change, make sure you have a quick plan that you can pick up that they will love just as much.
5) Be as confident as you can about what it going to happen. Even if you’re not sure, try to remain organised, calm and collected. If you panic they will certainly feel the fear and join in the panic. When plans change, take it in your stride and move onto plan B.
Even as I’m writing this I know it sounds so much easier then it actually is. Life tends to throw us curve balls every now and then, like snow, and we have to steer a different course. Just remember our children need to feel the security of being with someone who is not phased by life’s challenges, someone who is strong enough to handle the pressures and make a safe and predictable environment for them to live in. For those who regularly read my blogs you know that I’m forever talking about going easy on yourself and taking care of yourself. No exception here. When you do enter the panic zone remember tomorrow is another day!