Change and transition are hard, period. Sometimes we don’t realize how much transition we go through or are currently in. In addition, when we’re balancing our busy family schedules, preparing or recovering from relocation, or simply dealing with the daily curve balls life sometimes throws at us, we don’t always realize how much change and transition our children are experiencing.
As part of the Children In Change curriculum developed by the Family Life Education Department at Family & Children’s Service in Minneapolis (see full curriculum here), participants create a Family Timeline. Have your children create their own change timeline and use this as a way to talk with your kids about the changes they’ve experienced and (hopefully) give you some clues how to assist them with the challenges they are facing related to change and transition.
To create the timeline have your kids draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper. You can use regular notebook paper or get larger paper to give kids more room to get creative. For each year of age draw a diagonal line up from the horizontal line. Have your kids write words or draw symbols of the changes that occurred throughout their life timeline. (for example, a suitcase or house for each time they’ve moved or a bell or book for each time they’ve changed schools, including when they’ve transitioned from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school.) Or give them pictures or magazines that they can cut out and use on their timeline. This activity typically works best for older kids (mid-grade school to high school). For younger kids, you can have them draw/create a picture of one or two changes they’ve experience and use that as a jumping off point to explore change and transition.
Use the timeline to talk about all the changes that have occurred for your kids. Be open about how difficult change can be. Share your own experiences, both positive and negative, related to the changes on their timeline but make sure to keep most of the focus on them. Have them talk about how they feel about past transitions, what worked well for them, what was hard. Encourage your kids to think about change in a good way. You can ask questions like, “Have you ever had a ‘change of heart’? What happened?” Or, “What is one thing you NEVER want to change about yourself?” Generally, thinking about change and framing the question in a positive way that helps kids realize that not ALL change is out of their control.
Talk with your kids about what they do have control over in the change you are currently experiencing – whether at the beginning, middle, or end of moving to a new home. Having a sense of power and control in a situation that feels uncontrollable can help your kids overcome some of the negative feelings and build a foundation for greater resilience. Kids who have experienced change and have learned to cope, adjust and move on in healthy ways experience less stress because they have developed the adaptive skills necessary to handle transition in positive ways.
No parent should move without a game plan.
For more information about the Moving Families Initative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.