Just Don’t In The First Place

“Just don’t X in the first place” is sometimes, occasionally, helpful advice. It may be helpful to a brand-new parent, especially if they’re a close friend or have specifically solicited advice. “Just don’t let your kids drink juice.” “Just don’t introduce candy to them until they’re older.” “Just don’t have screen time.” “Just don’t let them come out of their room over and over, they’ll get used to it.” Etc.*

There are quite a lot of times in life, though, where human beings have been doing one thing and now would like to do another. Or families need some pattern to change.

Or foster or adoptive parents are caring for children who they did not make all the decisions for, for all of their life.

Or a sudden medical diagnosis changed something. Or something was working for a time, but now it is not working any longer. Or somebody is co-parenting in a situation where they can’t make a hundred percent of the decisions for the child’s life.

There are LOTS of valid, legitimate, good reasons why a family might decide, “X isn’t working for us anymore, and we would like to change it,” and go looking for advice or help on how to do so. And when tons of the advice is just “don’t X in the first place”, it can be so discouraging to people who are trying to make a change.

My quickest, smallest, most basic tip for families who *are* trying to make a big change is to involve your child and acknowledge their feelings about it.

You might feel really enthusiastic about a change, so your child’s reaction is annoying because it’s ruining your enthusiasm. Or you might feel really anxious and tentative, hoping your child’s reaction isn’t “bad” and worried it might overwhelm you. I would suggest whenever possible, not making a big change until you can work it out in yourself and feel peace about it and confident in your ability to lead your family through it and let your child feel their own feelings about it.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to warn your child in advance. “Tomorrow, we’re going to Y. I know, we usually X. It’s going to feel different.” Sometimes situations come up and can’t be warned in advance, or warning in too much advance will make the child feel anxious or sad or whatever for too long in advance.

Acknowledging how they feel is really age and maturity dependent. It could be a whole conversation of explanation, or maybe several. It could be simply saying “I know, this is different. Yesterday we did X and today we’re doing Y.”

The final thing I would suggest is not being a hypocrite in front of your child. If you’ve decided that the family needs to make a change where you all eat together at the table, then make every effort to stay at the table yourself, not be ping-ponging up and down. If you’ve decided that the family needs to drink more water instead of sugary drinks, join them in that rather than just handing it down as an expectation you can’t meet yourself. If you want your big kids to spend less time on screens and more time connecting together, put your phone down and plan an activity that speaks to them.

Circumstances change, people change, families change, knowledge changes, needs change. It’s very normal to need to change things along the way, it’s a part of life. Whether you are simply changing from one “good thing” to another “good thing”, or whether you’re improving something that was less than ideal into something that is better or healthier or safer for everyone, it’s okay to have to go through transition points and to do so confidently. ❤️

*P.S. All examples used are examples of things I’ve heard said, but not necessarily advice I would, myself, give. I’m talking “general advices you’d hear on the internet”, not me specifically telling you what to do. 🙂