When Unwanted Life Changes Occur

Every robust child is inclined to balk when his or her closest attachments are threatened. It is not only that both parents are essential to the world of a young child like Stacey but also that this attachment changed without her permission. She feels powerless and uneasy about taking anything for granted, which leads her to cling to routines and everyday expectations.

So when a major unwanted change "just happens" in a child's unsuspecting world, he or she will be inclined to cling to sameness. At times like this, parents and teachers can help enormously by sticking to familiar routines as much as possible. It's also important to offer the affected child many choices about uncontroversial matters like what color shirt to wear, what game to play, what book to read before bed, and so on.

Adults are urged to show respect for the child's opinions and wishes whenever it's realistic to do so. Consult her on questions that are truly open. When Daddy visits, he can offer Stacey two or three possible activities. If she is not in the mood to choose, he can select the one he expects she would like best.

Of course, even for children who have suffered a recent loss, limits that involve safety and general well-being must be respected.