Winds of Change: Easing Preschooler Anxieties

Sprinklers scatter rainbowed droplets, fruit juice popsicles
melt into sticky purple smiles, and school-age children are home in force. Play
dates, park days, and soccer van trips easily fill the week. 
Preschoolers often find themselves in a sea of unaccustomed activity in June.The euphoria of having their school-age siblings around all day, every day,
suddenly burns off and can leave preschool children giddy, unsure of this new
system, and acting out.  
These anxieties may be triggered in preschoolers for any
number of reasons:
a new baby or adopted siblings coming soon; an upcoming move; starting a new daycare or
daily schedule; and more.
For our family, my soon-to-be four year old has journeyed with
us through home stagings and immaculate moments, to us selling our home, and talking
about a new place. Now boxes line the hallways, rooms get emptier, and we speak often
of moving to a new house. 
Despite his excitement, there are still days when anxieties sneak through and manifest in acting out. One afternoon, he
snapped. Crying, flailing his limbs, and then waving a sword spatula, he
attacked one of the packing boxes in the living room. Poor guy. Getting down to eye level, I hugged him, rubbed his back, and we talked.
Whatever your three, four, or five year old is processing,
the start of summer can be a common time for emotional meltdowns. 
Here are three things that help us ease preschool anxieties:
1.) Give them visuals. So many of a person’s fears are rooted in
the unknown: unknown territory of having the siblings home all day and no
normal schedules; unknown territory of a drastic move, etc. Help your
preschooler visualize the changes by talking through what it may look like.
Check out library books that help them visualize other characters walking through
similar changes. We read through The Berenstain Bears’ Big Move many times
these last two weeks, watching Brother Bear bring up many of Daniel’s unknowns. 
2.) Give them words. As Daniel first started seeing special
possessions disappear into boxes, and seeing our rooms empty, I said aloud, “This
feels weird, huh?”
His older siblings and I talked aloud beside him of how it
will feel sad to move away from this house too, and that that’s okay. We’ve lived
here for a long time. Other days, rage filled him as his sister chose not to
play with him, or let him use her toys. Squeezing his fists, face flushed red,
he roared. I knelt beside him.“Are you frustrated?” I asked. It’s okay to say, “I’m angry! I’m
3.) Give them permission. Emotions are natural and necessary. Give your
preschooler permission to feel and articulate his/her emotions. “Does it feel weird
to have your brother and sister home all day? We’ll still have special times
together too.”
Or “Does it feel weird to think about moving?” and “Are you angry
about your sister saying ‘No, thanks’ to the fort idea? It’s okay. You can be
angry. Let me know when you want to talk.” 
 Life presents many opportunities for change, and anxiety is normal. Use these moments to model and teach your preschooler valuable methods of coping. Help them visualize the unknowns, learn to articulate their emotions, and give them permission to feel and process these. Invaluable skills for us all, huh? 
A summer rain fell heavy all day today. It smells
wonderfully fresh and cool outside. Our windows are flung wide, and my
preschooler drives tiny cars across Barbie boxes. The carpet is strewn with
toys and packed up boxes. 
What has your day been like today? What lays in view around you right now? 

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  1. LOLITA on June 23, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Sorry for missing this one, Jen.

    The line; "Give them Permission!" is now a tagline of a milk brand here in the Philippines.

    It says that when you say the word-line, "Yes you can!" it prompts them to lean on their own, without fear…. and I do believe that learning hands on, plus a lot of our couching, sure would launch them into achieving and accomplishing.

    thanks for all the tips, Jen.

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