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Coping with Change and Transitions

Learn more about coping with change and transitions.

Change and Development

  • Children rely on consistency and routine for a sense of security. Trusted adults are often the source of this consistency and they give children the confidence to explore, play, and learn freely.
  • Predictability also frees up children’s mental capacity for challenging tasks, such as anything that requires focus, memory, and self-control.
  • When predictability is disrupted by change or crisis, the typical process of development can be affected.
  • Some effects of this disruption are stress, fear, and a feeling of uncertainty. These can affect children’s social and emotional development.

Supporting Children through Changes

To cope with these changes, external supports, like trusted adults’ response to children’s distress, can help children to demonstrate resilience. Some of the ways that adults, like you, can support children include:

Perspective Taking

During times of change, children need support in understanding the difference between their experiences and those of others. Adults can promote this by practicing perspective-taking. This helps build empathy and compassion.

Listening to Children

Adults can also support children by creating opportunities for them to express their thoughts and feelings. By listening to children, adults can better understand and meet their needs. In turn, this creates resilience to face present and future changes. Even if adults are unable to make changes to the overall situation, they can still provide a listening ear as it helps children identify and process their feelings.

Creating Routines

To build a sense of predictability, adults can create routines that range from schedules that make clear what is happening during a particular day or week, to short 10-minute rituals like a daily bedtime story or evening playtime.

Working with other Adults

Adults play different roles in children’s lives. During transitions, adults may take on roles that are different from the ones they typically hold.

Typical roles include:

  • Primary Caregiver(s) or people that are present in a child’s immediate environment. Primary caregivers provide a sense of consistency by reassuring children of their presence.
  • Secondary caregiver(s) are usually relatives, neighbors, or friends of the primary caregiver(s) that support both the child and the adults.
  • Teachers & educators are a source of structural stability and support for children.
  • The immediate community like local hospitals, schools, and other organizations also provides material and psychological support to children and youth.

Mapping out these roles in the life of a child can be helpful when thinking about how to holistically support a child across their social world.

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Coping with Changes: Social-Emotional Learning Through Play

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