Today we continue with amplification of the sixth principle and how caregivers can adapt to children’s temperamental issues. The strategies below are focused at a child’s ability to adapt to different and changing situations.
A child’s ease of shifting to something new vs. taking risks
Sometimes children just cannot make the shift to something new while other children adapt quickly and find themselves taking risks. Here are some strategies for caregivers that may be helpful in either situation.
For children who are slow to adapt
- Provide multiple opportunities for brief, graduated exposure to new experiences (such as the first weeks of school).
- Handle transitions with preparation and consistency.
- Make changes one at a time and allow for adjustments before introducing another new thing.
- Allow choices when it is appropriate to do so.
- Provide predictable routines.
- Do not adopt a sink-or–swim approach because it can really frighten slow-to- adapt children and raise their anxiety.
- Talk about upcoming events, give the child a chance to ask questions and be reassured.
- Use visual cues and schedules, such as calendars, to prepare the child for changes or new experiences.
- Have the child mark off the transitions so they become real
- Provide plenty of warnings about transitions. Phrases like, “two more minutes” using the same words each time.
- Get the child to take deep breaths, blow up a balloon or blow out a candle to help calm him/her.
- Provide opportunities for social interactions and teach social entry skills
- Signal the child when something is finished and offer praise if he/she has managed it well.
- Try playing out potentially difficult upcoming events, such as hospitalizations and entry to child care, in pretend-play situations
For quick to adapt children
- For the most part enjoy the child’s ability to adapt and just make sure the new situation is safe.
- Make sure your child knows about possible dangers in the environment.
- Check that he/she is continuing to enjoy the new situation and adjusting well
- If the first positive response to a situation fades, remind the child that this sometimes happens but that it will be all right
- Let the child know you appreciate how well he/she is managing
Remember to be intentional
Once again, it is important to be intentional as a caregiver for a child as you help him or her adjust to new and changing situations.
These kinds of strategies can help remove anxiety and help children learn safer ways to adapt to their ever-changing world. That is a significant life skill that every child needs.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network