How can we start giving our children a voice through transitions? Change is hard for everyone. Even good change. As adults, we are often riddled with anxiety and overwhelmed when things change in our life. So it’s not hard to imagine how our tiny counterparts must feel during change and transition. In our family, we have figured out a way to empower our super sensitive soul ( our son, Liam) through change. You might be thinking that because your family hasn’t moved or added a new child that your little one hasn’t experienced much change. Not necessarily true. Here are a few things that our family has moved through while empowering our son so he feels like he is a part of the transitions—instead feeling that the transitions were just happening to him:
- Going from diapers to underwear
- Moving from a crib to a “big boy” bed
- Moving from New York to Nashville
- Starting Kindergarten
Diapers to Underwear
For us, this transition went fairly easily. We waited until our son (3 years old at the time) was ready. Around 2 1/2, I took our son shopping for undies. Selecting their own underwear is exciting and gives them a sense of independence. Each morning, I would hand him a pair of his newly selected underwear, and ask him if he wanted to try underwear or stick with diapers. I didn’t make a fuss over it. It was just a simple question to begin the conversation. On the morning we were leaving for the Virgin islands ( yep, a whole day of travel), my 3 yr old stated—after 6 months—”Underwear, Mama!” So I packed a bajillion extra sets of clothes and a pack of pull-ups and said a prayer. He had zero accidents that day!! Figure out what works best for your family, and how your child can feel like they are a part of the change.
Empowerment Moves: Starting the conversation to let him choose each morning and allowing him to pick out undies himself.
Moving From Crib to Big Boy Bed
This was a toughie for us. We had just moved from New York to Nashville, so it was a new house, a new room, and a new bed—a lot of change for anyone. Luckily, the first night, Liam’s cousins were here, and he didn’t even notice he had a different bed. After they left, it was a different story. He cried and felt nervous and didn’t want to be in his room. I realized I needed to help him through this transition by having him take some power back. Sometimes, giving our children a voice through transitions is missed, because we are transitioning ourselves. How did I do this? I took him on a search for rocks! Yep, good ol’ stones of the earth. I had him pick out 10 of his favorite rocks and told him we were going to write on them. We took a stroll and collected rocks in a container that he picked out. Then we sat in his room and had a conversation. I asked him how he wanted to feel in his new bed. A few of his answers were “sleepy, safe, loved, happy, not hungry, and comfy.” I explained that each rock would get one of his words. Then he could place the special rocks around his bed for that night—so while he slept, he would be surrounded by all the things he wanted to feel. I wrote on each rock, and he placed them around his bed that night. Afterwords, we put the rocks in a glass jar that still sits on his dresser.
Empowerment: Letting our children know that we care how they are feeling. Having them explain how they want to feel. Taking time to show them we believe this is important. Selecting rocks and allowing him to place the rocks around his bed. Inviting them to be active in the change. I think of it like Action + Intention + Love = Powerful Children.
Moving with Children
This had MANY parts for us, and I could do an entire post on just this—so I am just going to jump right in. Prior to leaving New York (I mean the day all the rooms were empty and the car was packed), I sat with Liam in every room of our New York apartment, and we talked about all the good things that happened in each room. Then—get ready for it—especially if you are less then cheesy . . . we said “thank you” in every room for giving us shelter and warmth. It felt like we said a very intentional goodbye filled with gratitude—and it felt good. Liam loved this practice and went back a few times when he remembered other things in each room. Also, when we traveled to Nashville the first time to look for a home, we gave Liam a special stuffed animal (from his gramma) that was there to help him select which room would be his. This made it fun for him. We used this stuffed animal to talk about the scary parts. Biscuit (the stuffed animal) would say things like, “I feel a little nervous about moving,” to Liam. Through this, we could start a conversation. Again, use whatever works to allow your child’s fears and voice to be heard. During the whole process of moving, and even still to this day, we read a book called “Bella and Stella Come Home.” It’s an awesome book about a little girl and her stuffed animal that move.
Empowerment: Saying goodbye and talking about fun things that happened in each room before leaving so our son could leave with gratitude. Having a special stuffed animal that helped Liam select his room in our new house and also allowed conversation around what was scary. Reading “Bella and Stella Come Home” ( Authors Anika and Christopher Denise) to help put words to feelings.
Oh, the nervousness of starting kindergarten! Full days away from home. Lets just say, there were a lot of tears and a lot of sleepless nights leading up to the day that I had Liam pick dome toys and throw some balls! Let me explain. After many tears, I had our son make a list of his fears about starting Kindergarten (enough to break a mamas heart, I tell you). Bullies, kids laughing about JoJo (his stuffed dog that, at the moment, he can’t imagine not having with him), meeting new friends, being away from us all day (he’d been home with me since he was born—never away full time), and long days. I had him choose between his army guys or Lego mini figures to represent his fears. We wrote his fears on a piece of paper.
We then talked about what he was excited about. His list of excitement (each of which were represented by a “boulder” to throw at his fears) included: a new classroom, his new principal, doing art at school, and making new friends.
We also had a conversation about how excitement and fear go hand in hand—and that both are OK and normal. He then threw his “boulders” representing his excitement at his fears. Remember, this is an adaptable practice. If your family doesn’t have army guys, or you dont like the idea of throwing things, that’s OK! It just happened to be the stage at which our boy was. You can use any objects and get the same result.
Empowerment: Allowing our children to not only speak their fears about transition but also what reminding them to focus on what might be exciting as well. Coming up with an action that represents both fears and excitement and letting them take part.
Giving our children a voice through transitions and empowering them will benefit the whole family. These are only a few examples of what has worked for us. Hopefully, it will give you a few ideas on what might work for your family too!