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Change is messy – but it’s part of life

Change can be challenging and unsettling, especially at the start of a new school year, but it can also be an opportunity to learn, grow and bring positivity. How can you help your child become comfortable with change?

NEWS 30 Jan 2023

The past few years have brought many unexpected changes to the lives of young people. But always in life routines can change, the once comfortable no longer exists, and we will always have new challenges to face.

Helping children learn to accept and adapt to change, like the changes that come with the start of a new school year, is an important life skill that parents/guardians and schools can help to build, says Maria Bailey, Haileybury Director of Counselling Services.

“During the pandemic, children and young people experienced a period of time that brought unpredictability and uncertainty to their lives, but change can often serve a purpose,” she says.

“Change, such as the changes that happen at the start of a new school year, can be exciting but also hard at times and bring mixed emotions. It’s important to help children and young people see different perspectives and find a sense of realistic optimism when change happens. Finding acceptance is also helpful and can bring a sense of relief.”

Diane Furusho, Haileybury’s Deputy Principal (Student Wellbeing) says looking for growth opportunities when change happens can help young people feel more empowered to deal with uncertainties.

“There will always be things in our life that are beyond our control, but it’s important not to dwell on those and instead to look at what we can control when change happens.”
Diane Furusho, Haileybury’s Deputy Principal (Student Wellbeing)

Here are 10 ways you can help your child cope with change:

1. Break down change:

Look at what is changing overall and then break it into small, manageable steps. Perhaps your child is moving to a new campus or classroom, discuss where they will be and what new amenities they can make the most of. Or perhaps they are going to study a new subject – talk about how they can prepare for that. What steps do they need to take, and what does your child need to actually do, to work through that change?

2. Get the right support:

When children feel unsettled, connect them with people they trust and who make them feel safe. That may be a family member, a teacher, sport coach, mentor or someone in their friendship group. Foster a sense of belonging by promoting peer connections and encourage children to connect with buddies or mentors at school. If you or your child need further support, you can connect with your GP or a psychologist.

3. Help them be kind to themself:

Let children and young people know that change can be tough and it’s OK not to feel OK about it sometimes. At the start of a new year, it’s normal for children to feel nervous and have mixed emotions. Encourage them to rest and nurture themselves and embrace kindness and self-compassion. Suggest that each day, they name three things that have gone well for them that day.

4. Remind them that they can choose what they focus on:

While they may not be able to choose the changes that occur in their life, children can choose what parts of change to focus on and how to view and react appropriately to change. They can focus on the negatives or acknowledge that things have been challenging and then look at what positive things they have in their life.

5. Be there:

Create time and opportunities to listen to your child talk about the effect change is having on their life. Talk to them about their day at school, what they are finding challenging and how they are feeling about new situations. Foster a ‘be there’ environment by promoting compassion, listening, being curious, talking and reflecting. Problem-solve together so they can take ownership and have confidence that they can work through change.

6. Present change as a way to learn and grow:

The word ‘change’ can create a sense of unease, fear and discomfort so talk about change using words that are more helpful, optimistic or hopeful. Change brings new opportunities and it also brings a chance to learn something different, to make mistakes and to learn from those. Celebrate how your child manages change.

7. Build your own knowledge:

If parents are uncertain about what change means in a child’s life, or how best to support them, get advice so you know how to help. Talk to other parents who’ve been through a similar experience or look online at respected and reputable websites that offer advice on navigating change and building resilience.

8. Help your child create a wellbeing plan:

Taking care of physical and emotional health matters. Help children set up a good sleep routine and a study routine to manage schoolwork and homework. Nutrition is important and so are sport, social or other connections outside school. Self-care is a superpower.

9. Don’t resist change:

Change is part of life and resisting every change is often pointless and disheartening. Children might face changes like moving home, changing schools, moving interstate and developing new friendship groups and routines. Discuss why change is happening and what is going to change but…

10. …Remind them that some things will stay the same:

When change happens, there will always be some anchors in a child’s life to keep them steady. Some things won’t change, so remind them of the things in their life that are familiar, secure, reassuring and that are staying the same.