Change might be planned: a new job, a new home, a new diet and exercise routine, or a new outlook on life.
Change might be happy: the birth of a child, a job promotion, achieving a goal, or meeting someone new.
Change can be sad or unexpected: a job loss, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the disappointment of a goal not coming to fruition.
Change is part of the world we live in: the different seasons, daily weather changes, and the various living creatures we may see around us. Change may be the one constant in life. Ironic, isn’t it? Without change; whether it be intellectual growth, a change of scenery, new friends, a change in circumstances, embracing new opportunities, or just acknowledging that today is different than yesterday, how can we each grow and grab all that life has to offer?
We each can fight change or choose to embrace it, and grab hold of the new opportunities; often exciting, and sometimes scary, that change presents.
At this time of year, students of all ages are preparing for school. Some will go to school for the first time, some will go to the same school but the next level, some will go to the “next” school in their community, some will go to a school in a new community, whether it simply be a move to another community or a graduation to high school or college. This time of year can be filled with excitement and anxiety about those changes, for students, and for parents. That is ok. Accept that change is part of life, and try to share that wisdom with your children.
There is no one “right” way to help a child understand, accept and embrace change, but having an open mind, and accepting things as they present themselves, is a good place to start. Empathy is an important part of helping an anxious student understand and accept change. Although as parents we may not remember our anxieties of elementary, middle, high school or college or other class changes, we can remind ourselves of new jobs, new relationships, or new challenges we have faced as adults, as we try to empathize with our students.
It is easier for a 10-, 12- or 16-year-old to understand your expressions of empathy, than it is for a 2-year-old, but the underlying theme may not be all that different. Try to focus on the new opportunities that change presents: a chance to make new friends, the opportunity to meet new teachers, the possibilities of learning new and exciting things.
Don’t dismiss worries, but do your best to minimize them, and whenever possible, reveal the bright possibilities that go along with those worries. Change requires that you, and your student, accept certain things which we may not be familiar with initially, but which we can become comfortable with over time. If your child is anxious about change, remind your child of a change they worried about in the past, and the happy things they ended up experiencing as a result of that change.
Most important: reassure your student that you will be there for them, that you believe in them, and that you love them. Remind them that although change is constant in our journey through life, the one thing that will never change is your love for them.
Michael Petrucelli is the on-site owner of the Goddard School at 8350 Lemont Road in Darien. Goddard School is a nationally recognized educational system of multiple locally owned and operated schools for early childhood and elementary education.