Change is hard for anybody to deal with. Helping children to deal with change, well there’s some specific strategies that I’ll share with you today.
Change is probably the only real constant thing that we can count on. And sometimes we fear change because different is something that we’re not used to by definition. This is tough for kids, and it’s tough for adults too. Here’s a little idea that might help to get us started.
Better is always different. Think about that. Better is still different. It doesn’t go the other way around. You know we’re different is always better because sometimes different is worse than what we had before.
But better is always different by definition. If it weren’t different, it wouldn’t be any better. You see what I’m saying? Better is still different. So wrap your head around that for just a minute as we talk about how to help our kids to deal with change.
Now we’re going to go to a place where you probably expected me to go. You are the parent. “Be the example of what you want to see in your kids.” How are you dealing with change? What’s your idea about change? Is it a good thing? Is it something that you anticipate? Is it something that you welcome and embrace, or is it something that you recoil, and you’re like, “oh, this is not what I expected.”
Okay, there’s a natural amount of that in every human being. But just check in with your own attitudes about change and notice that whatever it is that you’re practicing is what you model for your kids. And sometimes they don’t hear what we’re saying because what we’re doing is speaking so loudly. Pay attention to that. Notice where you are with that. If you need to make some adjustments about your own views on change, then do what’s required to get yourself there. We lead by example.
Now, when our kids are dealing with change, you’re going to notice something about your kids. First of all, what they’re dealing with is typically not at the same magnitude or the same level of intensity as the change we’re dealing with. And that’s just because they’re kids. And things in their life are relatively predictable most of the time. But if they change school years, for example. They got a whole new teacher, a new classroom, a new set of kids.
Some of the kids are the same from last year, but there’s a lot of changes. Well, how big of a difference is that? I mean from your adult perspective, it’s not going to be huge. But from their perspective, this is life-changing. And they might be going into some kind of a little crisis over this because to them, it’s a big deal. So keep that in mind too.
Let’s not minimize what our kids are going through just because it’s not a big deal to us. Remember to them, it could be huge. One of my clients taught me something about this very recently. They were moving. We are all moving, right? You do this. You get a job change, you get circumstances that change for you, you move. Not a big deal right? Yeah, to the parents. Actually, it’s a pretty big deal to the parents too usually, but to the kid, it’s like their whole world.
Especially if this is the house that they grew up in or that all of their recent memories are in. This can be a big deal, right?
Now, one of the things that drive worry and anxiety is our imagination. Do you know how things are going to go next week? No, you don’t. You’ve got something to do with it, don’t forget that part but you don’t know. You’ve got this great imagination however, and you can always imagine that things could get worse and you can still believe that things could get better.
If you don’t have any experience with the change factor, like your kids don’t with moving, you’re naturally going to be inclined to imagine all of this stuff that could be worse once we make that change.
So here’s a couple of tips some things that you can do to help out the kids.
Do A Lot of Listening
Number one, “do a lot of listening.” Pay attention to what your kids are saying and don’t try to jump in and solve it or correct their thinking about anything.
Simply listening in. And use some reflective, emphatic listening. So that as your kid is telling you, “how we’re going to move, and I’ll not have any more friends, and it’s just going to be awful.”
Okay, without trying to reassure or correct that in any way, simply join with them, show some empathy. “Huh… so this is going to be a tough change for you.” Okay, just an emphatic statement like that or something reflective, so you’re afraid that maybe you won’t have friends in the new place, okay? Just reflecting it back to them. You’re not trying to correct it or fix it at this point.
Do a lot of listening. You got two ears, you got one mouth, alright? Let’s use them in that proportion and just see if we can show a little bit of empathy in connection. A lot of times when you’ll do that, the kid will backtrack, okay?
“Oh, so you’re feeling like you’re not going to have any friends in the new place?” “Well, I know I can make some new friends.”
Okay, so they’re going to backpedal a little bit usually it just helps them to look at their own thinking a little bit more. Here’s something that I found with that particular client. I use something that I often will use with my clients which is a game. Let’s turn this into a game that teaches us something about our thinking.
So there are two games that you can try. You can do this in the car while you’re driving somewhere with your kids. You can call together the family. Have a little family night activity of some kind where we’re going to play a game together. Here’s how the game goes.
“Yeah But” Game
Now the first game that I would suggest to you is called the “Yeah but” game. The “Yeah but” game. Alright, this is where everybody takes a turn and let’s say that you have three or four people in your family and everybody just kind of like up in a circle. We’re going to play the “Yeah but” game, or if you’re in the car, you can just go from seat to seat, however, you’re arranged.
The first person, you pick a topic, okay everybody together picks a theme. So the topic might be reusable water bottles, alright? Or you like this one. “A reusable water bottle” that’s our topic. Now the first person makes a statement about reusable water bottles.
That person might say well reusable water bottles are fantastic because they remind you to stay hydrated. Awesome. Now person number 2 picks it up. Same topic but what they’re going to do is repeat what person number 1 said, in this phrase.
Remember it’s “yeah, but” okay? Yeah, reusable plastic water bottles are fantastic because they remind you to stay hydrated but and then person number 2 says whatever they want to. “But they get dirty, and you have to wash the.
Okay, and then person number 3 says, “yeah, they get dirty, and you have to wash them.”
Repeats what number 2 said, “but they are a lot safer for our environment than the disposable ones.” Okay, so you see? Yeah, repeat what the first person said but and then say whatever you want to say. This is kind of fun, and if you pick a topic that’s not too sensitive, you know like water bottles. Then you get a little bit of practice for how that goes. Now you play that for a little while, everybody has some fun.
Instead Of “Yeah” We’ll Say “Yes” ; Instead Of “But” We’ll Say “And”
Round two. We’re going to change two words. Instead of “yeah,” we’ll say “yes.” instead of but, we’ll say “and” alright? Same arrangement otherwise. So let’s say we’re still on plastic water bottles.
Okay, the first person says, “yeah plastic water bottles are awesome because they remind you to stay hydrated.”
The second person -“yes plastic water bottles are awesome, and they remind you to stay hydrated, and they’re more affordable in the long run than buying all of those disposable ones.”
person number three – “yes they’re more affordable than buying all of those disposable ones, and they’re more sanitary and protect the environment because we’re not throwing all those things into landfills.
Okay, so do you see the difference now? You play a few rounds of this game, and you’re going to notice something. Round two is always more favorable than round one because we’re collaborating. We’re adding to instead of tearing down.
Here’s where you can use it on helping kids adjust to change. You pick a topic like moving to a new neighborhood, okay? Or adjusting to whatever the change is and then the first person we’re going to play another round.
This time the topic is moving to a new neighborhood, okay? And then maybe mom starts. See we’re going to be strategic, and mom says, “you know, moving to a new neighborhood gives you all kinds of opportunities to meet new people.”
And then, person number two – “yes.” See yes and yeah are very different linguistically. We won’t get into all that but articulate that. Yes, moving to a new neighborhood gives you new opportunities to meet your friends and see now person number two has to come up with the and instead of them but, you’re with me? So we’re going to collaborate on this. We’re going to build this together, and there might be some whole new experiences that you could have there.
Person number three “yes, there might be some whole new experiences you can have there, and we still get to keep our old friends from the old neighborhood.”
“Yes, we get to keep our old friends from the old neighborhood. Do you see how this builds? It’s a game.
Here’s another version of that game that you might try. It’s called “and not only that” alright, so it’s a similar thing where we take turns, and the first person makes a statement, okay? Something like you know, moving to that new neighborhood is great because we get to have an adventure as a family in a new place.
Now the next person says, “and not only that, we probably will get to meet some new people while we’re there.”
And then the next person, “and not only that, we will have an opportunity to learn about new places and new things.”
Okay, so whatever fills that in but the phrase is “and not only that.” When you gamify it like this, it makes it easier for kids to start wrapping their head around what the change entails. Both the upsides and the downsides. You’re going to do a lot of listening and lead by example. You can help with this.
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