Change can be tricky

Whether it’s a toddler going to playschool for the first time, a teenager going to high school, a parent starting a new job or a grandparent retiring, we are all exposed to change at various stages of our lives.  And, with this, come uncertainty, transition and perhaps even novelty. It’s a process of moving from the known to the unknown and this therefore requires some form of personal adjustment.

When it comes to our children, we hear statements that the current generation are used to change…they are flexible and in fact demand flexibility, they take change in their stride…they are the change-generation!
Yes, their technology changes constantly, new apps are released daily, their modes of communication evolve continuously, and even teaching at school is changing as they are exposed to online learning and various digital media in the learning environment.

But, are they really coping with the rapid pace of change and the resulting expectations of them, or do parents still need to guide and support them? We could certainly argue that the increasingly high levels of anxiety and stress, and the resulting feelings of being overwhelmed and depression amongst the youth may indicate that our children aren’t coping quite as well as we want to think they are.

A dynamic new world

Adapting to change is a must, simply because there is just so much of it. Technology and its impact, has a large part to play in the accelerated rate of change we are all exposed to.
Resilient. Flexible. Adaptable. Dynamic. These are all words associated with change and, certainly, being all of those things and coping with constant change is a sought-after life skill that will help our children tremendously throughout their school careers, as well as into the workplace.

But, change triggers an emotional response and this is where the stress can creep in. They may feel happy, keen and excited; afraid, panicked or nervous; or even shocked, resistant and angry. The unknown variables which come with change can be unsettling – and questions like “Am I competent to manage the change” or “Will it change everything as I know it?” surface. When these feelings are negative and they don’t manage the process effectively, it can overwhelm and drain them, sapping all their energy.

Change Your Approach

So how can we put a positive spin on change? As a starting point, our approach to something can completely alter the outcome. In order to help your children (and maybe even yourselves) consider the following:

Teach resilience: Children learn to cope by developing resilience and they develop resilience when they have parents who listen and guide them. Encourage your children to verbalise their concerns or anxiety. Make a list of pro’s and con’s and give them suggestions on how to manage any of the negatives that may be on the list. If they are older, let them come up with those suggestions and then guide them from that point. Setting goals to break down the impact of the change may also be helpful.

Break the pattern: We all know that children thrive on routine and that it helps with behaviour and instils discipline but, on the flip-side, it can make them resistant to change. Think about small changes to incorporate and have fun with it! Encourage them to play a game when getting dressed and dress from the bottom up or  top down, try to brush their hair or teeth or even eat with their non-dominant hand, maybe have dessert before dinner (although not every day!). Small breaks in routine from time to time will show that change is good and can be fun.  This also encourages flexibility and creativity through considering other options.

Change your mind-set: It is often easier to instinctively be negative about a proposed change, setting the wrong tone from the outset. Reinforce that change can be rejuvenating and exciting so encourage them to expect the best and they might just be surprised. A positive attitude makes things seem less daunting.

Relax a little: Often we can’t cope with change simply because we are too wound up. Encourage children, especially as they get older, to remember to have fun, laugh and play, to participate in sport, music, art – whatever will help them to relax and burn off some of their stresses. Being more relaxed will also assist your child in being more adaptable and flexible when changes come their way.

Don’t procrastinate: Resisting the inevitable, won’t make it go away so try not to be defensive. Use communication and goal setting to break it down and start embracing the change.• Find more information/educate: When possible, research the change. Information can dispel much of the anxiety and understanding something better might make it easier to accept. For example, if they are going to high school, visit the school’s website to understand the culture of the school, the sport and cultural offerings, the subject choices, maybe look for photos of the grounds and staff. On that first day, things will seem less foreign and intimidating with some of the uncertainties having been reduced.

Be a role model: Children learn to be resilient by observing their parents and other adults in their lives, so try to remember this when next you face change and keep your anxieties in check as far as possible.

In itself, change has power and it takes courage to embrace it. It’s here to stay so see change as an opportunity to learn and grow, moving forward as individuals and as human beings. Imagine a world without it!

Our range of books offer insights into dealing with change. We also offer a series of talks about this and other life challenges, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us should you have any questions.

By Nicoleen Davies

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