Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Helping Children Adjust to New Situations

This week I started my two daughters in swimming lessons. Both had been very excited so I didn't expect any major problems when I took them to their lessons Monday morning. My mistake. Both started crying and were nervous about the new situation as soon as we walked into the pool area.
Luckily, my five-year-old was able to calm down and enjoyed her swim lesson, but my three-year-old wouldn't even enter the pool. For thirty minutes, her instructors and I tried to encourage her to get in the pool. Have you ever noticed though, the more you push, the more a child seems to push back? The next day was much better though. Both girls adjusted to the situation more quickly and both were able to participate in their lessons.

Both of my daughters are slow to warm up to new situations. It is important for parents to recognize when their children have this temperament and to adjust their parenting accordingly. Unfortunately, many parents, me included, would prefer to adjust their child's temperament instead. This, however, is close to impossible and it is important for parents to work around their child rather than trying to force them into situations they are not comfortable with. There are some ways that parents can help their children have a smoother adjustment to new situations:
  • Have a routine in place for activities that will be repeated. For example, if you are dropping your child off to pre-school or daycare and they are having a difficult time, do the same routine each day so your child knows what to plan on. You could read a couple of stories before you go or watch your child color a picture and take it with you. The goal is to be consistent so your child knows what to expect. (
  • Express what your child is feeling. For example, you could say, "You are feeling very nervous because you have never been here before." Helping your child know what he is feeling can help him to learn how to express himself and helps him know you understand.
  • Be understanding and loving, not forceful. Do not expect great results the first time you throw your child into a new situation. Plan on your child taking some time to adjust. Plan plenty of time into your schedule to allow you time to help your child get comfortable. A lot more frustration and anger arises when you're in a hurry.
  • Talk to your child and help her know what to expect. You can even roleplay what the situation will be like. Let your child know exactly what to plan on. Give her warnings to let her know when things will be happening. For example, "I will be leaving in five minutes."
Hopefully these suggestions will help to ease some frustration as you help your children in new situations.

How have you helped your children adjust to new new situations? How have you controlled your own frustration as you have helped your child adjust to new situations?



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