How does your child respond to plans suddenly changing? Do they struggle with their emotions, lack the ability to adjust or problem-solve where need be?
If you have a child that struggles to go with the flow, you may find that it takes extra time, energy and planning to reduce the impact of any unexpected changes. Unfortunately, doing so can perpetuate stress amongst family members.
We’re not all born with the skills to manage change positively. Biological factors can influence how these skills develop as well as life experiences.
An important executive skill is flexibility – the ability to make the emotional adjustments necessary to adapt to change and problem solve accordingly. If your child struggles to cope with feelings of disappointment or frustration, they may be weak in this skill.
Childhood provides is a critical opportunity for parents to enhance the learning and development of executive skills in their child. Flexibility is just one of them.
Four Ways to Improve Your Child’s Ability to Be Flexible
If your child struggles to go with the flow, and you would like to enhance their ability to be flexible, here are four ideas to try:
1. Where Possible, Offer Choice
Inflexibility may arise when the child feels that someone is trying to control them. Offering choices in how to handle situations returns some of the control to the child.
2. Start Off Small
Trying not to introduce a lot of change at the one time can prevent overwhelm.
3. Provide Just Enough Support
Inflexibility may arise if a child is faced with a situation they consider to be anxiety-provoking. They may find it difficult to adjust to a new school, sleep routine or different activity. Provide just enough support for the child to achieves success and as confidence grows, fade out that support gradually. This could include breaking down the task or goal into smaller, more manageable steps.
4. Practise Helpful Thinking
Saying a few helpful thoughts out loud can help to encourage your child to make brave choices. For example, “We have done this before, we can do this again”.
The ability to go with the flow and adopt flexible ways of thinking is a necessary skill for dealing with life’s ups and downs.
Is Your Child Struggling With Their Emotions?