Ever look at your kids and wonder where they came from? Sometimes it feels like our kids came from outer space and we just can’t get a handle on what to do with them….especially those behaviors that we just don’t understand. During times of transition, like moving to a new home, those alien behaviors are amplified. Understanding your child’s temperament is one of the keys to assisting them in a (hopefully) less stressful transition into a “new normal.”
Temperament is essentially the sum total of your inborn traits. It is neither “good” nor “bad.” It just “is” - like having blonde hair or brown hair, blue eyes versus green eyes. These physical traits don’t really change over time (those random grey hairs aside) and neither does temperament. However, we can learn, and teach our kids, skills that help manage the negative aspects of our unique temperament and magnify the positive ones.
Thanks to Drs. Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess, and the countless information-seekers thereafter, we know a great deal more about temperament and its impact on effective parenting. They identified nine temperament traits that impact how we behave. Each person in your family is a unique combination of these nine traits which include activity, rhythmicity, approach/withdrawal, adaptability, intensity, mood, persistence and attention span, distractibility and sensory threshold. (check out http://ohioline.osu.edu/flm02/pdf/fs05.pdf for an easy-to-read overview of temperament)
Understanding your child’s unique temperament can give you great insight to the best ways to inform them and manage their reactions when your family is moving. Kids who are more of the active/feisty/spirited temperament type (about 10% of the population) will have more extreme reactions to change, transition and moving than an easy/flexible temperament type (about 40% of the population). Conversely, a slow-to-warm/cautious child (about 15% of the population) may have an extreme reaction as well, but you most likely won’t as readily observe it as a feisty/spirited child. Communicate early, often and with care. While Mr. Feisty or Ms. Easygoing may give you lots of opportunities to practice your parenting skills, Mr. Cautious will need as much of your attention as well. Easygoing and slow-to-warm/cautious children many seem “OK” on the outside, but there’s a lot going on under the surface and you might need to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat to tease out any challenges.
The first and best step is to uncover more of what makes your child tick and utilize your resources to help them adjust to the transition of moving to a new home.
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.