10 Things to Help Our Children During Change and Uncertainty

It is fall, which seems like a good time to talk about transitions. As we move from summer to fall, from an abundance of free time to an absence of any time, we discover that change can be a painful shock to our kid’s systems.  

Our kids have to deal with more uncertainty than usual. They are experiencing changing rules about in-person learning, masking, or not masking and moving in and out of remote learning. Kids are also picking up on our anxiety. It is like we are all on a plane that has hit turbulence. It is time to put on your seatbelt, so we can all land safely at our next destination.

If you are a yoga practitioner, you are familiar with how instructors focus on transitioning from one pose to another. When we move from one pose to another is when we tend to fall. In your mind, you are already thinking about the next move. Our brains tend to leap back to the past or into the future, but the best way to navigate change is to acknowledge what you and your children are experiencing now, not challenges that have passed or the ones not yet on the horizon. 

Some neurologists say that our brains are predictive. Much like a computer, we store information, so later we can retrieve it quickly. So consider this when your child is struggling with something new. As a young child, most experiences are unique. Going to school is unknown. Each year, kids start a new grade level, they meet new friends, get new teachers, and experience new situations. As adults, we have mountains of experience to fall back on. 

The point is, it is essential to help ease your child into change. We can do this by assisting kids in managing expectations. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I would fantasize about the first day of school—visualizing a parade in my honor or my classmates showering me with lavish gifts befitting of my status. Then reality would set in. The truth of dealing with how someone is mean to you or you have to eat lunch alone. Childhood is a struggle when kids don’t get help navigating transitions as they occur. 

Every fall, my overachieving daughter would end up practically breathing into a paper bag to stop from hyperventilating. She had overextended herself and would end up overwhelmed with AP classes, volleyball, and other commitments. She did want to do it all. 

To help our children, we need to learn from others and manage our transitions. We need mentors, coaches, and role models to assist us as we age to be good role models. It is okay for your kids to see you fail. Just don’t let them see you give up. As a community, we are transitioning from the pandemic. Our world changes every day. That is why we need guidance on navigating change. Here are some things that have worked for me.  

  1. Routine—I find a routine to be soothing. I think that the more routine you can provide your children during challenging times, the better. For example, dinner every night at the same time. Use any method to deliver a meal, including boxed pizza and bagged salad or a sheet pan meal of chicken thighs and roasted carrots.
  2. Movie night every Friday, popcorn or treat of your choice. Maybe you can buy some Jiffy Pop and show kids what you used to do in the olden days. 
  3. Don’t be a Fortune Teller. No one is a fortune teller. My grandmother used to say, “Trust in the Lord, but row away from the rocks.” I find that a good premise. 
  4. Practice makes better–not perfect. Perfection is a lie. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to check out Carol Dweck’s book on growth mindset . Click here for the link to the book.
  5. Manage expectations. Help your kids manage expectations. If they are expecting a marching band and there isn’t one, sadness is sure to follow. Sometimes I find it helpful to acknowledge there are going to be challenging times ahead.
  6. Fill your pot. I find it helpful to stockpile when things get tough by filling our imaginary pot with good things. For me, the things that fill my pot are exercise, eating healthful foods, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. 
  7. Breathe Deep–breathing seems almost too simple, but it works. Deep belly breaths can calm you down. Or employ breathing techniques used by Navy Seals, breath in for four, hold for four, exhale for four. Repeat. I sometimes use this technique to fall asleep at night. 
  8. Transitions are complex. So go easy on yourself. Beating yourself up only leaves you wounded and unable to face the next hurdle. 
  9. Manage change gradually. 
  10. Know what things deplete you. Does social media or the news bring you down? Try going without it for a while.