Firmly Anchored or Lost at Sea... Navigating The Choppy Waters of Change

It’s that time of year again when significant changes and transitions are afoot; new schools, different friendships, the responsibilities of growing up and growing older… However your child -or you- feels about change, they can leave a deep imprint. Who else remembers the discomfort that came with transition from primary to secondary school like I do? Filled with excitement and anticipation, my 11 year old self never imagined it would be anything but.
But the shine quickly wore off; I felt overwhelmed with responsibilities I couldn’t understand.

And people just weren’t nice. Especially those I’d been best friends with.

Whatever your child, or you, might be dealing with; school, separation or divorce, moving house, bereavement, a new sibling, a diagnosis; it can be reassuring to decode the ‘inner-world’ of adjustment.

Because even if the catapult into ‘big school’ had given me a softer landing, the human brain is a very lazy organ.
Neurologically, all change is hard work, so even welcome and desired change means reconfiguring the wiring upstairs.

But when stress, worry or anxiety are added to the mix, that brings stressor hormones that slow that re-wiring process down. Adaptation becomes even harder, no matter how much we window-dress it with ‘being positive’.

So what can we do to help our kids be change-ready, especially when it’s not going to be an easy ride?

Preparation is everything…
It make take some of the shine off, but when we have an inkling at least of what to expect, the ‘rabbit-in-headlights’ effect of sudden and unexpected change is less likely.

Of course we don’t want to fill our children with anxiety (or terror!) but let’s also not be afraid of being honest with them. There’s nothing wrong or weak about acknowledging “This isn’t easy”.

A & E (Accept and Empathise)
Especially if your child is worried or feeling uncertain, resist the urge to declare ‘there’ll be fine, there’s nothing to worry about’ etc. Nobody ever stops worrying because someone said ‘don’t worry’.

Allowing them to feel sadness, anger, frustration, grief or anxiety etc., without ‘fixing them’ is not a poor reflection of our parenting. It’s letting them understand and process the big feelings they have.  

Accept; i.e. I understand why you’re feeling nervous, even if this is meant to be really exciting
Empathise; i.e. I feel like that sometimes too. Once, thing thing happened to me and…

Then lead into Curious Co-problem solving; i.e. I wonder what we might do to make things feels a little less scary?
You may to be able to solve the problem right there and then. It’s ok if you can’t.

Embrace change
Especially on the run up to a big transition point, help your children make friends with change, to become more familiar with the unexpected.

Where can you model the behaviours of “I don’t know what will happen, but let’s do it anyway”?
How can change be your ally; a welcome relief from the mundane?
How does novelty show up, where your kids can eagerly anticipate and LOVE the unexpected.

These moments can be gold, if your child recognises that this is what it means to manage change.

They won’t always make that connection themselves so strengthen their awareness and identity that they are a competent human being who can deal with change.
Give them plenty of feedback which helps them see that they’re not just ‘coping’, but are charging through, that they can expect good things from change.   

Keep a sense of security…
Really significant changes can feel like the rug being pulled from beneath us, so a sense of predictability is the antidote to that, especially for the over-anxious child.

Keeping some focus on what’s staying the same balances out the unknown quantities, the moving parts of life. While our kids learn to navigate the choppy waters of change – and learn that they can – the familiar; routines and rituals, home-comforts etc.; are the anchor points that help them feel secure.

Two of the eight Pip & Acorn’s Little Notes are designed to help children make friends with change; especially endings.
“As you fall asleep tonight, I want you to think about…” encourages gentler thoughts for those who find bedtime a source of anxiety.
“Let’s smile as we say goodbye” supports children to openly acknowledge endings, and find in a positive light in them. Find out more here.      

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