We live in a world where change is good. We grow and we change, we change jobs, cars, houses. We even learn from our mistakes and we change. Everything around us also changes. The stereo won’t play cassettes anymore and the VHS has become as obsolete as wooden teeth. Now technology has also changed our lives. It has facilitated the privilege to learn on the go, carry our lives in our phones and even connect or work to anybody anywhere in the world. If it’s true that change isn’t always good, for children change is never good.
How about that trip to Disney World? or the new house? baby sister? dog?
Nope, no matter how you paint the picture for children change means something will be different and that’s just not good.
First you need to understand that your child has been around in this world only for a couple of years if so. They strongly rely on structure and schedule to balance their emotions. These two things are the only things that can ensure your child of what’s coming next, they create security as they become a habit. Even as always evolving human beings children function better when they can anticipate their day; meals, activities, and social interactions. Now go back a year and try to remember vividly your family vacation with a small child, how was it?. Horrible? stressful? wish it ended as soon as it started?
The experience is probably not as bad in your memory now, this is because your brain often masks bad experiences and moves the more positive ones to the front row in your memory bank but if you recall anything at all you will remember: no naps, lots of bottles or pacifiers, dairy based diet and suddenly developing nice looking biceps as a result of all the picking up and holding your child during that vacation.
This principle applies to almost everything. Your child will react when something is different regardless of being a good or a bad thing. This is why children often react negatively to a change in their environment. At daycare we have experienced different reactions to children who start childcare for the first time. There are the four types of reactors we have met:
- The crier: For this child the typical reaction is cry. They cry when mom or dad leaves. If they are young infants the crying stops as their needs are met. If the child is older than one year of age crying might last longer throughout the day but no other different behavior can be observed.
- The food striker: These are also the non-emotional children; they do not cry or complaint but they show their uncomfortably in a different way. They either refuse to drink, or eat.
- The sleep deprived: These children are usually very happy, good eaters, very social but when it comes to resting or napping their demeanor changes completely. They will cry and complaint every time they are confronted with this routine that they are not used to. This usually happens when their nap routine at home is very different from the nap at daycare.
- The non-pooper: This child will eat well, sleep well, drink well, even socialize but when it comes to having his/her typical bowel movement it will either not happen or they will experience constipation and sometimes even diarrhea.
- The typical child: This child will display all the behaviors mentioned above, either one at a time or all at the same time. We call it typical because this is the reaction we get more often. This is how a typical child reacts to change.
So what do you do in order to help to avoid or lessen all this stress symptoms?
- Simply accept that if your child is behaving differently is because something new is happening in his/her life.
- Do not blame it on others or yourself. This is usually something your child has to come to terms with.
- Try to stick to the routine and schedule your child is used to. Most daycares and child care providers will encourage you to allow your child to have his favorite toy, blanket, lovey, pacifier, bottle, etc. as a security object until they achieve the attachment level they are comfortable with. Feel free to take these items on trips as well.
- New experiences can become “special experiences” if your child is having trouble sleeping through the night during vacation it will not hurt him for you to invite him to cuddle in your bed until he falls sleep. A new baby at home can help encourage the older sibling to help care for the little one, this too serves as a bonding experience for both children. You can also plan fun mommy or daddy time when you pick them up from daycare. Make sure when you drop off in the morning you tell them you will be back in the afternoon and then you two will have some fun time together. This will be something special your child will have to look forward to.
It will take time before your child matures enough to understand change and accept it on a positive note but every time something special happens during change it will teach your child that things happening differently is not always bad and usually is could be something very good. Be patient, this is one of the most confusing things about parenthood, when you think you got it all right your child decides to try new things. Most of the time the “change” variable will happen because your child decided and not because something else caused it.
If you have any questions or would like to share your experience feel free to leave a note in the comments area.