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How to Help Children Deal with Big Transitions

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Most children are very apprehensive about change, which is understandable.

They’ve lived most of their short lives a certain way and when things change, it seems as if their entire world has been thrown upside down.

While fear of transition in children is normal, it also can be frustrating in the midst of things because things must get done. As we’ve recently had some pretty big changes in our life, I thought I’d write a post on things we did to help our children deal with big transitions.

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I want to clarify that these tips will work best with younger children, anywhere from 2-5.

They may work with older children as well, but I don’t have much experience with older children, so I can’t attest to that!

It’s been quite a year for us as we’ve embarked on a pretty big life change with our 3 children.

We sold our house, bought a new house, and moved 12 hours away to a new state.

Josie and Margo (21 months) handle change pretty well. I’m not sure if it’s because of their age or because being a twin causes you to develop a certain amount of flexibility, but they did pretty well.

They definitely had a few fussy days with the traveling and missing some sleep, but overall, they adapted with no issues.

On the other hand, our 3-year-old, Theo, has never handled change well.

At all. Just yesterday he got mad at me because I put his step-stool facing the wrong direction. He assigned the girls different colored sippy cups and is constantly telling me that I’m giving them the wrong cup.

They don’t care which cup they get, but he does!

Encourage Flexibility in your Child: Train them with Inconsistencies

This is something you can do leading up to a big transition.

Make your child do things out of order for the sole purpose of teaching flexibility.

If your morning routine is wake-up, get dressed, eat breakfast, switch the order and have breakfast before getting dressed.

If they are used to doing things a certain way, switch things up so that they get used to small changes. Being able to handle small changes is a step towards handling big changes.

Only Give your Child the Information they Need

Focus on the positives!

We didn’t dwell on the fact that we were leaving our Ohio friends and family. 

The parts that we knew would excite him were what we talked about.

We briefly told him he would be leaving his school and then spent a lot of time talking about how we could play at the beach and we would get a swing set for our new house.

Give your Child the Information at the Right Time

Oftentimes it’s not the actual event that a child is scared of, but the unknown.

If your child is starting a new school (or daycare, doctor, etc.), they may be really anxious. What is their new school going to look like?

What will they do there? There are so many unknowns, which can be frightening for a child. However, once they actually get there, they will realize it’s not actually scary.

For this reason, we don’t give our children information too far in advance.

We have personally seen how it has made Theo anxious and stressed. 

He started preschool when he was 2.5 and had to switch when he was 3. I took him to the new school for an evaluation about 6 weeks before he started, so I felt as if I had to tell him why we were going there.

Looking back, I should have lied and told him we were having a special day visiting a different school, and then told him the night before.

He was so anxious for those 6 weeks, waking up in the middle of the night, and expressing his fears to his current teachers.

We stopped talking about his new school altogether until the night before.

Read About It

For every big transition in our kid’s lives, we get a book and read about it.

What’s really funny is that with our recent move, we weren’t going to tell Theo right away.

My plan was to slowly read books about moving and then tell him.

Well, night 2 of reading a book, and Theo tells my husband “Daddy, we are getting a new house just like Alex!” Ha. Kids are so intuitive.


Books on Moving

Bella and Stella Come Home

The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day

Books on Starting School

The Berenstain Bears Go to School

Daniel Goes to School (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood)

Books on Potty Training

Potty (Leslie Patricelli board books)

Daniel Goes to the Potty (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood)

Books on Having a New Baby

I Am a Big Brother

Big Brother Daniel (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood)

The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby

Also, ask your librarian!

I have been searching the internet for the one about Alex that Theo liked, and I can’t find it!! It was from our library and our librarian helped us do a search for books about moving.


P.S. Make sure you’re following me on social media to keep up with our family and all the twin cuteness! I am on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!

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