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From Tears to Smiles: Tips for Helping Children Adjust to New Environments

Dealing with the behaviour of children who have been separated from their comfort zone can be very challenging for parents and caregivers. Whether it is shifting home, going to a new school, a change in family dynamics, or a temporary separation such as travel, it is important to recognize that children may have difficulty adapting to new environments and may exhibit challenging behaviours as a result.

Behaviours such as these are commonly diagnosed as separation anxiety. Separation anxiety: what is it?

Separation anxiety is a feeling of fear or anxiety that a child may experience when separated from their primary caregivers, such as their parents or guardians. It usually occurs in children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old. It is typically more severe in younger children and tends to resolve as children grow and develop greater independence.

There are several signs and symptoms of separation anxiety, including:

  • Crying, tantrums, or other distressing behaviours when separated from caregivers

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep without a caregiver present

  • Refusing to go to school or other activities without a caregiver

  • Difficulty with adaptations to new environments or changes in routine

  • Excessive worry about losing caregivers or about their own safety

  • Physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches when separated from caregivers

Here are some techniques that can help you support your child and manage their behaviour during adapting new environment:

  • Validate their feelings: It is important to recognize that your child may be feeling a range of emotions during this time, such as sadness, fear, or anger. It is important to validate these feelings and let your child know that it is okay to feel this way. You can say something like, "I know you are sad because you have to leave your friends behind. This is a really hard thing. But you are strong and I am sure it will get better for you"

  • Create a sense of routine: Creating some routine can help your child feel more comfortable and secure in their new environment. This can include establishing regular mealtimes, bedtimes and activities. If possible, try to keep some parts of your child's previous routine. This can include things like their favourite bedtime story or their preferred snack.

  • Encourage communication: Encourage your child to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Being a parent, try to listen to their problems. Never make fun of the smallest doubt or the problem that they might have while adjusting to a new normal. Avoid interrupting or dominating the conversation. It's important to give everyone a chance to speak and be heard. Make sure that you set up a healthy and respectful ground to keep the communication going.

  • Help them make connections: Encourage your child to make connections with others in their new environment, whether at activities, school, or other social opportunities. This can help them feel more connected and supported. You can ask your little one to observe people and the environment near them. Teach them how to gracefully exchange a ‘hello’ to the kids or to a teacher. Make them join a club or an organisation with the same group of kids. You can also encourage your kids to take part in volunteer work. Being a parent you can make them aware of how social gathering increases their confidence and provide them with an opportunity to extend their circle.

  • Avoid setting tough boundaries: When kids are adjusting to a new environment, it is important to provide them with independence to some extent. Strict boundaries can create a sense of fear or anxiety in children, as they may feel that they are constantly being watched or judged. This can inhibit children's sense of autonomy and independence, which is important for their emotional and social development.

  • Provide positive reinforcement: When your child exhibits positive behaviours, be sure to praise and reward them. Providing positive reinforcement is a way to encourage and support desirable behaviour in children. It can help children feel motivated and confident and can encourage them to continue engaging in positive behaviours.

  • Seek professional help if needed: If your kid's behaviour is causing significant stress or worry, it may be helpful to consult with a mental health professional. They can provide additional support and strategies for managing your child's behaviour during this time of adjustment.

In conclusion, managing the behaviour of children who have been separated from their comfort zone can be challenging. However, with patience, understanding and the right steps, it is possible to support your child. Help them adjust to their new environment. By acknowledging your child's feelings, establishing a routine, encouraging communication, and providing positive reinforcement, you can help your child cope with this difficult transition and prepare for future challenges.

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