As Adults we expect small changes throughout our everyday, week and year. For us, we generally relish something that is a bit different or engaging us in a different way. It keeps us excited about life and looking forward to other possibilities.
For children who are 2-7 years old though, any change can be hard! What may seem like a small change to routine that wouldn’t effect us as Adults can be very confronting to a child in the pre-operation stage of development.
Children at this age flourish on routine and see the world in a very different way to us Adults. They are egocentric, not always understanding the points of view of others and rarely appreciate a change to their ‘normal’ routine.
What can I do when my child’s routine is changed on them?
The most important thing you can do is support them and talk them through the changes, especially if they are going to become the new normal. It may take weeks for them to settle in with a new change and that is ok. With your support they will develop the ability to cope better with changes in the future.
It can be very helpful to formally introduce your little dancer to a relief teacher. You can tell them that their normal class teacher is too sick and needs to get better so the relief teacher is helping out so you don’t miss out on dancing.
You may need to remind your child multiple times in the days before and day of, that someone different is taking them to class, or that they are attending a different day so there will be new people there. When I say multiple I mean it, they won’t completely understand what you mean at first, especially the first time it happens. It is important to reinforce what you mean when it happens.
Children at this age have a very narrow view of the world, it is one of the reasons I love seeing little people at the shops and they can’t understand why I’m not at dancing. Their view of the world is that Dance is with a certain teacher and certain students. Changes to this can throw their view of the world out and can be quite disturbing to them.
On arrival say, “Look here are the lovely girls and boys you will be dancing with today. I’m sure you will have a great time dancing with them.” This helps to reinforce that there are different people at Dance and that it is ok to have different people to dance with on different days. It is also a good idea to introduce yourself and find out the name of at least one other student heading into class so you can introduce your child to them. This may help ease their apprehension, especially if they are a shy child.
What are the signs my child isn’t coping with change?
It can vary greatly and it all depends on the child. They can also be effected more by small changes if they are starting to get sick or if there have been changes to other routines outside of Dance ie. starting childcare/kindy or changes to care arrangements. The hardest part is that they can’t always tell you why they feel or are acting the way they are. You, as the parent need to consider what is different and try to help your child come to terms with the changes. As their teacher, we will work with your child to support any changes through class as well.
So next time Gran brings your little one to class instead and reports that your dancer didn’t want to go in, or the teacher lets you know that your little dancer needed a bit of extra encouragement than normal to participate or that they won’t let you go at the door consider what changes may have happened lately.
What is convenient or seems a small change for you, can completely shift the world view of a young child!
Want to read more about the pre-operational stage of development? You can read more here.