For Children Facing Life Adjustments

Children experience transitions and adjustment to life changes differently than adults. And while life transitions are a normal part of life, it is important to remember that children experience strong emotions, but have a limited capacity to process those feelings in comparison to adults. Life transitions are often unpredictable and, as adults, we have the ability to reflect on past experiences in order to adapt and cope with the current change. On the other hand, children are usually experiencing these life changes for the first time and require additional support to get through them and maintaining emotional well-being. Children appreciate having some level of continuity within their lives, and when this continuity is interrupted, they may become stressed and exhibit concerning changes in behavior.

Examples of Common Transitions/Life Adjustments for Children

  • Moving
  • Changing schools
  • Divorce or separation of parents
  • Becoming a big brother or sister
  • Death of a loved one
  • Friend/family member moving; parent returning to work
boy thinking

Is My Child Having Difficulty Adjusting?

Since children are still developing the skills needed to regulate emotions, they may experience difficulty handling those emotions. Children tend to live in the moment which can make unexpected events harder to cope with.

Compared to adults, children react differently to life transitions. Behavioral changes are the most commonly displayed reactions described by parents including:

  • Tantrums
  • Withdrawal
  • Aggressiveness
  • Inability to separate from loved ones
  • Difficulty managing major emotions
  • Fear, nervousness, and/or physical shaking

Is Counseling Right for My Child?

Studies have shown that protective factors can aid children in negotiating transitions positively. These protective factors include healthy relationships with parents, internal and attitudinal coping resources, self-confidence, self-efficacy and self-regulation, connections to community, and guidance from compassionate adults.

Using individual and parent counseling, our licensed therapists can assist with guiding a child and their family though a difficult life transition by helping the child improve upon their skills including:

These are all aspects of building on their ability to think through decisions before acting on them.

Successfully coping with change requires developing flexibility which is an integral skill needed for success in learning. At Suffolk Counseling Services, our therapists can assist with providing support as a child/family copes with change, along with the process of adapting to adjustments within their environment.

Helpful Strategies

There are several strategies that you can implement to help your child with changes  while positively dealing with the stress and anxiety that may accompany the adjustment process.

  • Give advanced warning (Discussing what is happening and how it will change) 
  • Maintain as much continuity as possible.
  • Allow them to ask questions and always be responsive and encouraging.
  • Be accepting of your child’s unique grieving process