There is change in the air around here.
We are about to embark on the messiest stage of our renovations. My tarpaulin kitchen will be ripped out tomorrow (I will have a make shift cooking area in what used to be our bathroom! But more on that later), there will plasterers here all next week, then the floor will be sanded and polished, the walls in the entire new part of the house will be painted and finally the new kitchen will go in. It’s rather exciting, but quite daunting too.
It will mean a huge disruption over the next few weeks and lots of changes long term.
Short term we will be living with makeshift kitchen so the usual favorite dinners are off the menu, so is baking cakes and making bread.
Short term we will be out of the house a lot during the holidays and staying with family/friends for periods of time so the work can be done.
Long term there will be changes of bedrooms.
Long term, for the first time ever, my boys will sleep in a room without me.
Dealing with change is hard for the best of us… it’s even harder for kids.
Here’s how we’re helping our kids deal with change…
Talk about it.
We’ve been talking about the big picture of these changes for a looong time, but now it’s time to talk about the details.
We’re making sure the kids know what is going to happen and when. We are talking about all the little things, like where the cereal will be kept while we have no kitchen and what sort of dinners we might have.
We are also talking about how it makes us as adults feel. Talking about how we might feel stressed out or frustrated too, and how we’ll cope with that helps our kids understand that feeling upset about change is ok, and that there are positive ways to deal with that.
Keep up some familiar things.
We deliberately planned the bulk of this upheaval to happen during the school holidays so we all wouldn’t be worrying about sticking to school and kinder routines. The holidays give us some breathing space and allow us to continue with some of the things we’d usually do during the holidays like go to the movies, visit friends or have the kids stay with their grandparents.
Plan some fun stuff to look forward to.
To help the kids deal with the hard stuff, we are planning some fun stuff for us all to look forward to. Things may be difficult at home, but knowing that in a few days we will go to the Drive In or to the beach, or eat out at a favourite restaurant, or do something we don’t normally get to do can take the edge off the tension. It can help us all realise that dealing with these changes are not all bad.
Expect some difficult behavior.
I expect there to be more tantrums and arguments during this period… and that’s just from me! Accepting that we will all be a little on edge and possibly not able to deal with problems with our usual positive attitude is a big step towards not letting it get me, or anyone else, down. Just reminding myself in advance to cut everyone some slack will help me not to lose my cool when they do… and this is really important because if I lose it, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down around us!
Make a plan.
I am a planner. I don’t often stick to my plan, but making one helps me feel calmer about whatever is to come. The same goes for my kids.
We have sat down together and made a list of dinners we could have when we have no kitchen, as well as a list of things we could do and places we could go when we need to get out of the house.
I’ve also made a mental plan of how I might cope with difficult behavior or problems that crop up (because you know there will be problems that crop up). Thinking these things through and coming up with a ‘positive first response’ for situations I think may arise really helps me. If I at least start out on the right foot… if I have a per-prepared positive first response for what I’ll say or do when someone loses it, or we are suddenly without power, then I am more likely to deal with it in a positive way rather than fall back to my usual stress response of yelling.
Keep your eye on the prize.
A wise friend tweeted that to me last night when I was complaining about what a grotty job it was to empty the kitchen cupboards, and she was so right.
We have been planning and then doing these renovations for so long that sometimes it seems hard to imagine that they will ever be done, that we will ever get to enjoy ‘the prize’, but we will, eventually!
Talking with the kids about what they are looking forward to most of all when the renovations are done helps them ‘keep their eye on the prize’. Morgan can’t wait for the new kitchen to go in so we can cook lots of stuff in our two ovens! The girls are looking forward to changing bedrooms and getting to choose things like new curtains. I can’t wait till I can be in the kitchen and look out over our dining table, family room and out to the back yard. And I am betting the Father Figure just can’t wait till he gets his free time back.
So… wish us luck!
And please share any great tips you have for helping kids deal with change!