Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The “House-Shifting” Saga: Children and Dealing with Change

Recently we shifted our residence, and as with any new residential project we had discussed, thought and planned about everything we could think of – interiors, space, light, window-dressings, colors, storage, shifting, settling, etc etc etc..

We thought we’d covered just about everything with respect to planning, and would be fine in terms of execution if we stuck to the plan (Of course there could be a few unexpected deviations). After all, planning and execution are integral elements of our professional responsibilities, and we did have decades of experience in that department. And being working parents, a detailed plan was essential to plan time-off from work and to ensure that there is minimum impact / effect on our work life balance.
Unfortunately for us, there was just ONE CRITICAL FACTOR that we missed in the equation. We NEVER really thought about, planned, discussed or considered vital to the “House Shifting” project. And that was how our daughter would take to this change.

We did speak to her about the fact that we would be shifting to a new residence, and she appeared to be excited about the new house. And beyond that, there really appeared to be nothing worthy of concern.

Until we actually shifted. And then began the SAGA. I call it a SAGA because it’s the first of its kind I’ve witnessed and experienced as a parent – Endless tears, shouting & screaming, refusal to eat food, improper sleep and disturbed sleep cycles, extreme sadness (the melancholy eyes are enough to cut through your heart!)…. The list continues. In simple words, a lot of visible behavioral changes; with the only demand / request / plead to go back to the old residence.

Now this was something which we had never really thought of, anticipated or planned. And more importantly, I guess as parents we did not comprehend.
Let me illustrate with a few examples:
Baby : “Mummy, Whose house is this?
Me: “Ours
Baby : “No. This is not our house.. Let’s go back to the old house
Me: Speechless

Baby: “Mummy.. I love you so much.. Please Please Please – Can we go back to the old house
Me: Speechless

Baby: “I’m hungry..
Me: “What will you eat? Something yummy?
Baby: “Yes.
Me: “Chocolate? Biscuit? Ice-cream?
Baby : “Nothing. Can you please take me to the old house
Me: Speechless

What followed was a lot of Googling, consulting with family doctors, thinking, analysis and ‘trial-and-error’ ways on how to deal with the situation. Not to mention, all the free advice which came from family and well-wishers on what needs to be done, and how!

Thankfully we figured a way to settle things down, which included primarily:
·     * Showcasing / Highlighting the good in the new residence
·    * Creating an exclusive space filled with toys / activities; and mentioning it a zillion times that this was her space
·     *  Not speaking / referring to the old residence during conversations
·     *  Ignoring tantrums / requests to go back to the old residence

Lessons Learned
(1)  Each child (or even individual) has a different appetite to deal with change. Major changes which can affect a child include (as mentioned by a child specialist) changes in living environment [Room, House, Interiors, Lights, Smell, Place / Location], change of friends, change of schools, addition of a family member (which typically includes siblings, pets or new people living with you), loss of a family member (which typically includes parents, grandparents, pets, or moving out of someone who was living with you). And each child reacts and responds to changes in a different way. Give children some time to accept and digest the change; and this can vary for a week to several months. Till then, be loving, patient understanding and supportive!
(2)  For many of us, a part of our identity is closely linked to where we reside. Looking back, my daughter has lived in the old residence for 100% of her life (from birth) and hence a strong part of her identity is linked to the old residence. It is possibly an unsettling feeling to deal with a change so strongly linked to her identity
(3)  As children (at least up to a particular age), the house interiors don’t really matter – Fancy lighting, Cutting edge gadgets, Artistic wall-papers, Beautiful paintings / artwork / curios, etc etc etc. hardly make a difference. What they value is a safe living environment, with a space they can call their own; filled with love and affection. The superfluous things just don’t matter!
(4)  During the impressionable years of a child’s life and development, it is critical to model behaviors / habits that you’d ideally want them to develop in the long run. For e.g.: If your child throws a tantrum for something “unreasonable” / “impossible” in the real-world (For e.g.: I want to go to the moon OR I want a real lion as a pet J OR I want a red banana / blue apple / green dog, etc.) and you end up almost always “giving-in” (partially / fully); the child believes that the way to get what he / she wants is by throwing a tantrum. So keep a check on such behavioral patterns and their formation. They play a critical role in the long term child growth and development.
(5)  As a parent, you know your child best; and are “divinely” equipped with the “know-how” on dealing with all kinds of situations involving you’re child. In difficult parenting situations (especially for the first time); the right guidance coupled with common sense, trust in your own instincts, faith in your parenting abilities and a positive approach in dealing with the situation make all the difference!

Ending with Nischala’s Words of Wisdom: If you are a parent and considering shifting your residence – Do think through and factor the impact it could potentially have on your children!! And it is worthwhile to have a realistic plan on how you’ll deal with this!

Originally published on Parentous

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