Supporting children through changes, big and small!

The office in which I work recently moved. As the big day approached excited chatter filled the air. We planned our new routes to work. We discussed the neighborhoods and restaurants surrounding our new office and strategically planned to visit each new restaurant. We talked about decorating, furniture placement and meeting areas.

In the middle of the excitement and packing I found myself becoming a little sad and a bit reflective. I reflected on all of the “beginnings” I’d had within the office. I began a new job there. I built new friendships and relationships in that office. I started a new chapter of my life within those walls and I decided I was going to miss being there.

Children struggle with change just as adults do. Early childhood educators have the power to make it a little easier on them.

As I reflected, I started to feel out-of-sorts and a little moody. My family even noticed the change in my mood and commented that I seemed distant. I am an introvert by nature and I deal with change and chaos internally. I escape into myself and ponder my thoughts, feelings and reactions. I scrutinize everything and look for ways to calm the storm within.

As one thought often leads to another I began to consider not only how I was coping with this change but I thought of all the children who deal with change and chaos on a daily basis. My change was a planned and scheduled change. I knew about it months in advance and was a part of the moving process. My thoughts began focusing on the children in our programs who sometimes don’t have the luxury of even knowing when a change, whether large or small, is about to happen. Many times children and their families are moving from place to place. Many children are going from household to household and back again as parents battle for custody. Children sometimes have no idea where the next meal is coming from.

How can child care providers help our most vulnerable population deal with change? How can we support them through the chaos of life? One thing providers can do is offer consistency. Each child needs to know when he/she enters the center for the day that there are some things that will always be the same. Consistency in teaching staff means safety and security. Children need that one adult in whom they can trust and build a relationship.

Children also need a consistent daily schedule and routine. A daily schedule provides some security in knowing what will happen next each day. Children need to know that each day after free play they will go outside. After they go outside they will come back inside to wash hands and eat lunch. A consistent schedule allows children to relax within the environment. Children who are relaxed and feel secure in the environment are more prepared to learn.

Providers can provide understanding and support. All children react differently to change. One child may adapt easily to a new baby in the home while another may experience stress and anxiety. One child may show no outward sign of stress while another may act out by screaming, throwing toys or simply by becoming more clingy and crying more often. It’s important to recognize the signs of stress and provide unconditional love and support during a time when our children need us the most.

I am happy to report we are settled into the new office. We are each adding a personal touch and adjusting to the newness. In reflecting upon the last few weeks I realize that as an adult I have survived the move and I am able to move forward in dealing with the change. As providers, it is our responsibility to help children feel supported and loved during times of change and chaos in today’s ever-changing world.