Change. Everyone from Bob Dylan to Sam Cooke to Taylor Swift has written songs about the concept of change. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s the one thing we know will always…be. While change is inevitable, there are definitely certain points in our lives that seem to be brimming with it. These transitional moments can be tough on everyone, but they seem to present a challenge especially for children. Let’s talk about what handling change feels like, and why it doesn’t have to be approached like a hurdle to throw ourselves over, barely making it out alive, lol. Let’s dig deeper.
My Early Days
We’re building our dream beach home right now. But, I can’t tell you that I had a ton of experience as a young child with change as it relates to moving. I lived in one house for many years, and we only moved once after that. So I definitely benefited from having a strong core base. But every kid deals with changes and transitions in several aspects of their lives.
We change schools, make new friends, and sometimes it’s as simple as just growing older from one phase to the next. Handling change can be challenging. Everyone feels differently about it. I’ve had conversations with people who view change as an opportunity for a fresh start and reset. Others would prefer to stick with the familiar and tried and true. We all know someone who lives by the old adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Neither of these perspectives is better or worse than the other. However, handling change in a healthy way should be the goal for everyone.
Raising Resilient Kids
I don’t dread change. I accept that it is a part of life, and instead of fighting it, I embrace it. I’ve always thought of myself as a resilient person. The outlook you adopt on life greatly impacts the ease with which you move through it. Think of it like the ocean. It’s much easier to swim with the current than to struggle against it. Regarding life in this way has helped me so much, and I knew I wanted to raise my sons to have those same traits. One of the ways I did that was by preventing them from becoming too attached to one way of doing something. Take nap time for instance. I established a sleep schedule, but not a specific “napping place.” As a result, my sons could sleep anywhere, a friend’s home, their grandparents’ house, a hotel on vacation. I was deliberate about making myself their “north star” as opposed to a physical space.
When Handling Change is Difficult
If you follow me on social media you’ve likely seen our family chronicles. We’re a close-knit bunch, and Kingsley and Kensi are almost always together. That’s not happenstance. I worked to foster a positive and loving relationship between the two of them since my youngest was born. So, when school started and they had to be in different classes, I noticed my youngest had a tough time handling change. Kingsley is the more social one of the two. He makes making friends look effortless, and Kensi, who was always right beside him, never had to navigate those waters. So the first days of independence led to Kensi coming home from school saying things like, “I don’t have any friends.”
I decided to take my youngest out of his comfort zone. When we go to have a pool day, I tell him, “you don’t get to hide behind your brother. Go say hi and make friends. They’re just as shy as you are.” He isn’t comfortable doing it, but I try to give him moments to do it with the safety of mom close. I want my boys to understand that different isn’t bad. I want them to meet change with the confidence to know that they have everything they need to be successful in new situations and environments. Handling change well isn’t always about predicting what will happen. It’s about being resilient enough to adapt and move with what’s happening. That’s a lesson that works well for children and adults alike.
So, we know change is a constant in life. We know that learning to make peace with that is the first step to handling change well. But children don’t possess the life skills and mental processing that adults have. When people comment on how well-adjusted my sons are, I tell them that my advice may be a bit unconventional. My boys haven’t expressed any anxiety or negative emotions regarding our next move. I think a lot of that is because of the way I frame things. My advice? Don’t hyper-focus on the negative.
Children often take their cues from us. Have you seen those videos where a toddler falls and the first thing they do is look at the parent? Nine times out of ten, if the parent panics, so will the child. If everyone remains calm in the room, the tot is likely to get up and carry on. The same concept applies when you’re helping your children through changes. I didn’t ask my boys if they were feeling nervous about our move. I asked them what they were most excited about. We shifted the mood and switched the focus. This isn’t to say that we don’t make space for their feelings whether upbeat or sad. I just don’t make a habit of associating “new” with adversity.
Stability and Security
I think the best thing parents can do is maintain a sense of stability and security for our kids. Pay attention to the conversations you have with them. You’ll be able to detect how they’re feeling about the changes occurring. Be careful to not overwhelm them with adult emotions that they’re simply not ready for. I spent many moments giving myself time to digest my own feelings and tears privately, before having calm and collected discussions with my kiddos. I want to ensure that no matter the transition, they know and feel that they are safe and taken care of. Handling change isn’t something that comes with an instruction manual. But it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle. I’m teaching my kids that they are stronger and more resilient than they think. I hope they’ll carry that lesson with them throughout their lives.