Young Children and The Power of Framing

Young Children and The Power of Framing

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  1. Have you ever tried to explain to a four-year-old why he has to leave all of his friends at school to move miles and miles away? Has your child ever come home from school complaining of what seems to be the end of the world as we know it? For young children, big events can be a big deal (and not always in a good way). When a major change is in order for your child, take steps to avoid unnecessary discontent and unhappiness within your home with these effective tips.

    It Isn’t All That Bad. In Fact, It’s Good

    Teaching a child the ways of the world is one of the most difficult (and important) things that we do as parents. Unfortunately, some of life’s bigger changes aren’t always all that pleasant, even for adults. When a change of job or family situation causes a move away from the place you’ve always called home, remember the effect that it has on a tiny mind and soften the blows with positive framing.

    Now that our family is growing again, we’re moving nearly four hours away from our hometown to be closer to my fiance’s place of work. The move is unavoidable and, in many ways, a good thing. However, a child of four has such a narrow outlook on the world in which she lives everyday, and leaving her school friends and most of my family is a lot to swallow all at once.

    When it was time to tell Britton about the move, I decided to approach the subject in the most positive way possible. Even the way a sentence is structured can greatly impact the way information is received and the reaction of the person receiving it. Though I knew that she would (and will) miss her friends and teachers greatly, I decided to leave that part out entirely (for now). Acknowledging those feelings is extremely important, but placing them in the forefront of a child’s mind unnecessarily is a common mistake and can lead to more heartache and fussing than any parent wants to witness.

    Instead of starting with something like, "Now I know it might make you sad to leave everyone that you know…," I began with something more like, "You know how it’s really fun to meet new people?" or "I know you are just awesome at making new friends." This positive approach set her up for happy news and, just as I had anticipated, she became extremely excited when I revealed that she would soon be meeting a whole slew of new friends at a brand new school. This, of course, was a huge relief to me, as I desperately want her to enter into this new phase of young life with an optimistic outlook.

    Now, whenever we talk about the move, we talk about it with smiles and happy anticipation of all that is to come, not of what we are leaving behind. If a time comes that my daughter needs support and empathy during this process, she knows that she can come to me. Until then, we are tear-free, happily looking forward to meeting lots of new people and making tons of new friends.

    The World Isn’t Ending

    My daughter has (or had, rather) a very favorite rock. This rock wasn’t special in any obvious way, but to her, this thing was priceless. She would carry it around with her everywhere, show it to everyone, and keep it in the same place every night so as to avoid losing it while she slept (if only she’d do the same for her socks).

    This morning, the rock became lost. A doctor’s appointment and a trip down the street for lunch and suddenly… We are without Britton’s special rock. Of course, tears of overwhelming grief consume her nearly immediately, and anyone within earshot is suddenly keenly aware of her undying affection for the tiny stone. Fortunately, I’ve faced plenty of meltdowns similar to this one in the past and have a particularly effective way of handling them.

    Before more than three or four people in the restaurant knew what the screaming was all about, my daughter’s pitious screaming had come to an end. We sat quietly in our booth, conversing just between the two of us. "But that was my favoritest rock ever and there’s no such thing as a better one in the whole entire world," she told me.


    I explained to her that, while that rock may have seemed like the most amazing thing she’d ever owned, I knew for a fact that we would find another one that was even better. She looked dubious, of course, but I continued, providing for her a made-up-on-the-spot anecdote that helped the situation immensely. Though I’d never had a rock quite as neat as hers (because saying so would’ve just been asking for a comparison match I’d never win), I told her that I had once lost my favorite dolly. I had thought that nothing could be better, just like she felt about her special treasure. I finished up with how happy and surprised I’d been when I found a dolly that was even more wonderful than the one I had lost, and how I’d taken extra care from then on in order to make sure I didn’t lose her like the first one.

    Turned out that we got two lessons in one out of that experience: A lost toy doesn’t actually result in the end of the world and being careful with our favorite things is of supreme importance.

    Never Underestimate a Positive Attitude

    One thing that I’ve found to be true, regardless of circumstance, is that optimism and a positive outlook help every situation, especially with young children. They look up to us with such trust and such a deep need for stability and reality that it’s crucial for us to keep a smile on whenever possible. The impact isn’t always immediately visible (though it often is), but the overall effect will remain with them for years to come.

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