Helping Children Deal with Change and Stress

Parent's Roles as 1st Teachers Reading Books

Most of us, and especially children, appreciate some level of predictability in our lives. Children need time to process all of the information that they are exposed to and appreciate daily routines that offer a sense of security and safety.

So how then do we help children handle change—both the big changes (new sibling, family illness, new school) and the little changes (new breakfast foods, new morning routine, new shoes)?

Tips for Helping Children Cope with Change

  • Give advanced warning. Discuss what’s happening honestly, but positively, "My work needs me to move to a place called Georgia. I feel a little scared, but I’m excited about a new adventure too. Will you help us pick out a new house?”
  • Maintain consistency. During a big change, like adding a sibling to the family, try to keep as much the same as possible. Wait, for example, to move your child from a crib to a bed.
  • Answer questions. Children often have many questions and may ask the same question repeatedly. This is one way children gain mastery over a situation and build resilience. Keep answers simple, age-appropriate and positive. Be honest if you don’t know the answer to a question.
  • Expect some regression. During times of change, children may regress to earlier behaviors. For example, a child who was toilet trained may revert back to having accidents. This is normal.
  • Accept grieving. Children may grieve changes, even happy ones such as a move or the birth of a sibling. Listen, don't be too quick to distract, acknowledge emotions, and remind them of all the positives.
  • Read children’s picture books. Reading books together is one way to restore a sense of connection, safety, and peace. Read a wide range of books, including a few that relate to your specific situation. Look for books with adult and child characters who work together to overcome difficult things.
  • Play together. Play is one of the best ways for children to work through stress and change. Head outside for a game of tag or gather some leaves. Make cookies, play a board game or engage in pretend play. Play is good for both children and adults!

Additional Resources about Children & Change:

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Parent's Roles as 1st Teachers Reading Books