Helping your Child through Change or Difficult Transitions

Helping your Child through Change or Difficult Transitions

Moving house, starting a new school, the birth of a sibling or any other changes and transitions can be very challenging for some children. Change can bring on tears, fears, anxiety, worry and even “misbehaviors” or “acting out.”

While parents often see the importance of helping their children through big transitions, such as the birth of a sibling or the parents’ divorce, many overlook the “little” transitions. Things like starting a new day care, meeting a new teacher, or trying a new sport.

Even these “little” transitions can be difficult for some children. If we are aware that our child is struggling, we have the opportunity to support and encourage them through this challenging time. Providing them with skills and strategies will help them get through transitions they may face in the future.

big life changes for kids

Here are some tips to help your child through difficult transitions:

  1. Prepare: Give your child ample opportunity to process the transition by providing them with age-appropriate information. Some children may want to see pictures, learn people’s names, or spend time in the environment ahead of time.
  2. Talk about it: Create normalcy around the topic by making it part of your everyday conversation. Encourage your child to ask questions or express their thoughts about the transition. Ask open-ended questions: “I wonder if you’ll have a class pet? What pet would you choose?”
  3. Make a list: You may not know all of the facts, and that’s OK. Focus on what you know, and be honest about what you don’t know. “That’s a great question. I’ll write it down and we’ll try to find the answer when we visit your new school on Tuesday.”
  4. Give them an outlet: Some children struggle to put their thoughts and feelings into words. Offer a variety of resources to process their feelings: drawing, journaling, writing a story, modeling with clay, or find a book at the library about a child dealing with a similar transition.
  5. Practice coping skills: Create a long list of calming and coping strategies and practice them often. In some situations, role playing together helps the child feel more confident and gives them options for handling the event in real life.
  6. Watch for changes: It’s not always easy to know when a child is struggling. They may show their discomfort by being more aggressive, regressing to old behavior (thumb sucking, bed wetting), or complaining of physical symptoms (stomach aches, headaches).
  7. Seek help: If you are concerned about any of the changes listed in #6, if your child continues to struggle with the transition after it occurs or if you are worried about how they are adjusting to the transition, seek help from a mental health professional.

Some children seem to be unphased by changes in their routine, they go with the flow, adapting quickly to changes. Other children have difficulty with new situations, people or places. Regardless if the transition is “big” or “little,” these children will need more help from their caregivers to manage their uncomfortable feelings about the changes ahead.


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Nicole is a mom to 3 young girls, a Parent Coach, and Licensed Therapist in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the author of *Positive Parenting for Imperfect Families*. Nicole helps parents connect with their children, feel confident in their parenting, and find positive alternatives to punishment. Learn about online Parent Coaching and read parenting tips on her blog, ImperfectFamilies. Sign up for Nicole's newsletter here.

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2 Responses to Helping your Child through Change or Difficult Transitions

  1. Can you give me some examples of appropriate coping strategies to help my kindergartner? She is still having some issues with morning carpool and lunch in the cafeteria. I think I have the carpool issue resolved by buddying up with a friend so they can walk in together, but the loud cafeteria is still a problem (she isn’t eating much, and it’s a long day to go without food and energy!) Thanks in advance!

  2. Thanks so much Nicole for this article.

    Wondering what can I do to calm my 15 months baby who is quite affected with our house move.
    He understands us well but we are unable to calm him. On top teething phase on.
    Any tips appreciated.



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