Change is hard for everyone, but it can be particularly challenging for children.
As children grow and develop, they rely heavily on routine and predictability to make sense of the world around them. When faced with changes, they can feel overwhelmed and anxious, which may lead to behavioural changes or even regressions in their development.
From moving to a new house or childcare centre, to adjusting to a new caregiver or routine, changes can be unsettling for children of all ages. As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to understand the impacts of changing a child’s routine, particularly on their emotional and behavioural well-being.
With some guidance and support, you can help your child navigate through these changes and come out on the other side feeling more confident and resilient.
Common routine disruptions for children
It’s perfectly normal if your child doesn’t like change in routine. After all, children thrive on routine and predictability, so any disruption – big or small – to their routine can be unsettling. Changes to a child’s environment may leave them feeling like they’ve lost a sense of familiarity and security, which can naturally trigger anxiety and stress.
Some common routine disruptions for children include:
- Moving to a new home
- Starting a new school or childcare centre
- Changes in caregivers or babysitters
- Changes to their daily activities or schedule
- Major life events such as divorce or the death of a family member
- Changes in family routines, such as meal times, bedtimes or weekend activities
- Medical issues or hospitalisations
- Changes in extracurricular activities or hobbies
- Transitioning from summer vacation back to school/ childcare
How children can respond to routine changes
Understanding how change of routines impact a child is the first step to helping children navigate through these transitions.
First thing’s first: there is no fixed way that a changed routine impacts a child’s behaviour. Children will respond to changes in different ways, depending on their age, temperament, and past experiences. Some children may show signs of distress or anxiety, while others may seem unfazed by the changes.
So, exactly how can a change in routine affect a child?
It’s important to remember that different reactions are normal responses to changes in routine. Some common responses to change are:
- Anxiety, worry, or fear
- Anger, irritability, or frustration
- Sadness, tearfulness, or withdrawal
- Difficulty sleeping or changes in appetite
- Regressing to behaviours they have outgrown, such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Increased clinginess or separation anxiety
- Acting out or misbehaving
- Increased physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
Effective strategies for managing changes in routine
When it comes to changes in routine, it’s not always easy to know how to help your child adapt. Whether it’s moving to a new house, starting a new childcare centre, or simply adjusting to a new schedule, disruptions to routine can be unsettling and overwhelming for children.
However, with some effective strategies and a little bit of patience, you can help your child feel more secure and confident during times of change. Here are some practical tips for supporting your child through the ups and downs of change.
Warn children about change
Giving children early notice about changes in routine can help them prepare and feel more in control. Depending on the situation, you can explain the change using age-appropriate language and answer any questions your child may have.
If possible, try to involve your child in the decision-making process as much as possible. For example, if you’re choosing a childcare centre, you could take your child with you to look at potential centres and involve them in the decision-making process. This can help your child feel more in control and reduce their anxiety about the upcoming change.
Stick to routines as much as possible
Maintaining consistency in your child’s routine can help them feel a sense of control during a time of change. Even small routines, such as reading a story before bed or having breakfast together in the morning, can provide a sense of stability for your child. When your child’s routine is disrupted, try to incorporate new activities into their routine as seamlessly as possible. An example of this would be if your child is starting at a new childcare centre, try to include a familiar activity, such as a favourite toy or snack, into their new daily routine.
Naturally, it’s important to note that sometimes sticking to the same routine might not be possible, but when change happens, try to establish a new routine as soon as possible. A new routine can help provide structure and predictability during a time of uncertainty.
Enrolling your child in a reputable childcare centre, such as Aurrum Kids, can provide a sense of regularity and structure during times of change. Childcare centres often have consistent routines and schedules in place, which can help your child feel more secure and reduce anxiety.
It’s important to know what to ask a childcare centre before enrolling your child. Consider asking about their daily routines, promote a sense of belonging, and how they handle transitions and changes.
Be there for your child
Offer your child plenty of emotional support and reassurance during times of change. Let them know that it’s normal to feel anxious or upset, and that you’re there to help them through it. Listen to their concerns and validate their feelings.
And of course, remember to be patient and allow your child time to adjust to the new routine. It’s natural for children to take some extra time to adapt to changes, so try to support them as much as possible through this transition period.
Reward positive behaviour
Praise and rewards can be powerful motivators for children, and can help reinforce positive behaviours during times of change. If your child is adapting well to a new routine, for example, you could offer them a special treat or activity as a reward.
When rewarding your child, it’s best to be specific about what behaviour you are praising. Instead of saying ‘Good job!’ say, ‘I’m really proud of you for staying calm during our move’. This allows your child to understand exactly what they did right, and encourages them to continue that behaviour.
Rewarding positive behaviour can be a powerful motivator when it comes to helping your child overcome separation anxiety, which is a common side effect of change.
Navigating change can be tough for children, but with some guidance and support, they can learn to adapt and thrive. Remember to be patient, communicate openly, and provide a stable and predictable environment. If you need additional support, the friendly team at Aurrum Kids is happy to answer any question. Contact us today to find out more or book a tour at one of our purpose-built childcare centres in Victoria or NSW.