Little People have BIG Feelings

Little People have BIG Feelings

If I had a dollar for every person in the past couple of months who has said to me “Kids are resilient … they adapt easily … don’t worry about it” I could probably retire.

In mid-November we moved “home” to Sydney after a 16 month stint in Melbourne. My husband and I really looked forward to returning to our good friends and the house we had worked hard to renovate over a 5 year period but had literally completed the night before we rented it out. I figured Miss 11 months wouldn’t be too fazed by the move but I did feel concerned about Miss 3. In her world Melbourne was home, she couldn’t recall ever living in Sydney or having Sydney friends. In Melbourne she had her 2 cousins up the road, lovely day care friends and one very special “best friend”.

Moving to Melbourne had been a big upheaval for her, followed by the arrival of her baby sister, and now we were on the move again. Anytime I spoke of my concern for her and wondered aloud how to best help her with the transition the response was always “Kids are resilient … they adapt easily … don’t worry about it”

I agree that children are resilient and adapt … goodness I moved enough in my early childhood to prove that … but I always felt that this response was minimising my concerns and in someway saying that I was silly to be worried.

Little People may not have the words to describe their feelings.

As I write this we have been back in Sydney for 6 weeks. In many ways the transition has been smooth but I am aware that for Miss 3 this is hard. I think until she starts at her new childcare centre and can form new friendships it will be hard for her.

Things that I notice that show me she is still making sense of the changes are:

  • More clingy and emotional than usual
  • She is biting her nails
  • She has started to wet the bed at night again
  • She is acting out more than usual
  • And every 10 days or so she comes to me and says “Mummy, we have been HERE a long time, I think we should go back to our Melbourne house”

I know that in 6 months time she will have found her groove here in Sydney and we can tick the “kids adapt well” box. At 3 she doesn’t know how to express or process all of the things she feels so I feel a little sad to know she is feeling a little sad too. In this moment, right here and now, she needs me as her mother to provide stability, security and love and to ensure whatever feelings she has are recognised.

Of course she will adapt, and I know she is resilient but right now she is a little person with big feelings.


Linda Anderson is the founder of Mums on the Go , an online child-friendly directory covering Sydney and Melbourne. She is Mum to 2 girls and is expecting her third child in 2012. Linda has a long history of supporting and empowering people – particularly mums – all across Australia.

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Nathalie Brown

Child Behaviour Consultant at Easy Peasy Kids
Child Behaviourist and researcher. Creator of "Less tantrums. More smiles". I look at the bigger picture and think outside the box when working with children and their behaviour. Their world is different. As adults we sometimes forget this. Happiness Creator in my spare time. Eater of chocolate and cake.

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  1. Katy Reid says

    What you are saying is very much based on the circle of security when children are returning to and looking to their parents for security when they are not understanding what they are feeling. SO very true and you are a wise mum to recognise this and provide that need for her a strong pair of hands to go to to be able to return and feel safe. You will create a well balanced and resiliant child, one that is self confident if you can go back, be there and be strong for your child, helping them to feel safe and secure. A great article and I loved reading it! Thanks for sharing.

    • Katy – thank you for this lovely & supportive message. As the weeks go by I appreciate more and more how important providing stability and safety for Miss 3 is and love seeing her become more and more at ease and confident in this new part of her journey. Linda x

  2. What you are saying is very much based on the circle of security when children are returning to and looking to their parents for security when they are not understanding what they are feeling. SO very true and you are a wise mum to recognise this and provide that need for her a strong pair of hands to go to to be able to return and feel safe. You will create a well balanced and resiliant child, one that is self confident if you can go back, be there and be strong for your child, helping them to feel safe and secure. A great article and I loved reading it! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kirsty Groves says

    why not make a memory book together…starting with the move and adding all the happy things you have experienced together since you got there. i agree that childrens negative emotions are easily brushed under the carpet…so allow her room to add stickers of sad faces or 'angry scribbles' if she needs to. better out than in 🙂 x

    • Kirsty – what a fabulous idea! thank you … we have done lots of drawings and story telling together about our experiences, the change, what we miss and what we love about this new journey. But the idea of collating and having a memory book is great 🙂 Linda x

  4. I do believe that kids are resilient… but it’s completely different from adaptability. Many children are slow to adapt and many are also sensitive. Change is hard for anyone and little ones don’t have the experience, the language or the tools to deal effectively with change. It takes them a while to feel safe, to know their new environment and to accept. If they are also sensitive, there being bombarded with new sounds, textures, sights, tastes and smells – even the water tastes different. I think that daycare, routine and new friends will help… in the end – but don’t forget it’s another change and more adapting to a new environment and new people.

    Keep at it – it sounds like you’re doing a great job helping her adapt and giving her the tools she’ll need throughout her life. You may never be able to give her a checkmark for adapts easily but you can give her the tools to adapt effectively. And she’ll be resilient knowing she’s safe and that she can do it.

    • Suzi – thank you for these supportive and insightful comments. She started her new daycare about 4 weeks ago after almost 3 months at home with me since our return to Sydney. The first 2 weeks were really hard for her but now she is happier, making friends and (mostly) is happy to skip away and play when I drop her off. She is well on her way to finding her Sydney groove 🙂 Linda x

  5. well, we are now about 4 months down the track of adjusting to being back in Sydney. It has been a bumpy road for Miss 3 but I am so proud of how she has worked through this with me. I have found storytelling a really effective way of processing the change with her and giving her space to share how she feels. She has started at daycare 4 weeks ago and although the first couple of weeks were a tough adjustment for her she is now really happy there and making friends. Last weekend her BEST FRIEND from Melbourne flew up to “sleep over” for the weekend (with her Mum). The girls had the most wonderful time together and I think it has helped create a link between Miss 3’s Melbourne world and Sydney world. Now she can see that although we live in Sydney she can still feel connected to Melbourne. She is only 3.5 and she never ceases to amaze me! Linda x

  6. Hannahs old forgotten friend samuel says hi

    • Samuel is NOT forgotten 🙂 we talk about him when we walk past your old house when we visit the library. Hannah knows she had “baby” friends in Sydney before we went to Melbourne and Samuel is one of those.
      Hope life in Belgium is wonderful for you all. We miss you!
      Linda x

  7. Yes we do expect them to be resilient but we cannot expect them to be in reality. Some children just hate change and will resist it. We need to help them see the good in the change and let them adjust in their own time – not in ours.

  8. Our daughter has gone through the same sort of ordeal. We lived in quirindi about 6 hours north of Sydney and that’s here my daughter was born and first lived. By the age of about 1 1/2 I had to move back to Sydney for work. But it was too difficult to bring the whole family down and find a place all at once, so they went to my in-laws place for about 4 months while we had to wait for our house to be ready. Well she had grown so attached to farm life with animals everywhere when she came down to Sydney finally she didn’t cope well at all sleepless nights, sleeping in our bed, acting out and many other things. But she has finally started to get into her groove again she has a lot more family down here she can be with and come to visit we are about to put her into day care so she can make new friends. But kids will adapt to new surroundings easier than we can sometimes but there isn’t really a way to make it any easier or quicker they will all adapt in their own time

  9. Claire M says

    I guess they were just trying to be positive or even just giving a standard response, but it is clear the move has affected your daughter. In time, she will make her friends and start to feel like she’s home again, but until then mummy cuddles will go a long way. And it’s great her friends from Melbourne can come up.
    As someone else suggested, a memory book is a good idea. Neighbours are actually just knocking down their house and rebuilding and they have used this concept for their 2 young boys so they can remember their old house but also to help them while they are renting elsewhere for 12 months.
    Best of luck with the rest of your family’s journey!

    • thank you Claire. My daughter is making some good “true” friends here in Sydney. We have a holiday in June planned with her Melbourne best friend too which she is excited about 🙂 I find she is really stepping up a “big sister” at the moment as we prepare to move her little sister into her bedroom soon before bubba #3 arrives! this seems to give her new confidence and sense of self which is lovely. xx

  10. We have also just moved far away from where our
    3 year old little princess was born and also had lots
    of friends and a special best friend. The only thing stopping
    us from moving was her best friend but we decided
    that we can keep them in contact and they can have
    big sleep overs. She has now adjusted really well
    and loves her new school and has lots of new friends.
    I agree that yes little ones bounce back but they do have
    feelings too so we made sure we have made the move
    exciting for her and she understands she has moved away
    and loved her new home, thank goodness!
    Brilliant story!

  11. Hi Linda, such a beautiful and empathetic post, thank you for writing this. I think many kids are very resilient but that does not mean they do not have BIG feelings. Having big feelings and having your mum or dad notice them and respond to them is waht makes them resilient – it's part of how they learn to soothe themselves as they get older. Hope Sydney is treating you well 🙂

  12. Beautiful post, you are a wonderful mum! I find this gets said a lot around me too and it makes me very uncomfortable. The idea that children are little and therefore somehow don’t have emotions and thoughts and fears just like the rest of us really baffles me. I feel like saying “children are PEOPLE too”. Anyway, loved this – it was encouraging for me to read and I appreciate you sharing your story. Looking forward to hearing how things are going for you in 6months time.

    • thank you for the lovely acknowledgment of my story and my role as a mother 🙂 Children ARE people too … people who are learning how to grow, adapt and process feelings … things prhaps we take for granted as adults. xx

  13. Sharni Montgomery says

    I really like this post. I am about to have Baby Number #2 and have been really concerned about the adjustment – I am constantly being fed the resiliant and adapting line — but I am more concerned about dealing with the "big feelings" that this will bring. Any advice would be great!

    I feel a bit funny that this is my first comment, and I am mentioning Target – but I really did need to read this and will continue to follow and read your very helpful posts!

  14. Rebecca Cane says

    Hi, so far we havent had too many big changes like you have. I had Miss 3 when Mr 7 was 4, so the transistion went well. Mr 7 has ADHD so we have had a few ups and downs, trying to get him to tell me what he is feeling instead of just being it, with school and lack of friends etc, that is getting better as he gets older and he understands why he, us and others feel they way we do. Having a Younger sister helps too, because if something happens, and she reacts a certain way I explain it to him. Miss 3 is so different, she will tell you how she is feeling, Quite often and you can see it on her face. They are both such caring kids, I just hope I do an ok job of guiding them through the start of life. Its not easy at all most days. I love your facebook page and find it inspiring, helpful and a good laugh. Thanks for your words of wisdom. “target competition”

    • Validating and accepting all types of feelings as real makes things a little easier.Thanks for entering the comp xx

      • Rebecca Cane says

        Well thanks to your Fb Page I found an Australian ADHD support page and on theirs I found a new fish oil that sounds promising. Thanks again x

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