For most of us change is difficult. It brings with it a sense of stress and uncertainty. Even if we are excited about the change, we are never absolutely sure how everything is going to turn out.
Interestingly, our bodies are aware of the stress that comes from change and they react accordingly with an increase in heart rate, a change in breathing, and a heightened awareness of our surroundings just in case we need to flee for safety. Luckily, as adults we are able to look to past experiences of when we went through some sort of change in our life and ultimately survived. We are able to draw strength and courage from those experiences in order to get through new, unfamiliar situations.
Our kids, however, may not have many of these experiences to draw strength from. Therefore, it is important for us as parents to assure our children that they will make it through the change.
As parents we can do a lot to help our kids develop courage to make it through changes and transitions in their lives. To explain how, think back to when you would play the game of hide-and-go-seek as a kid. What made that game fun? Was it crouching down into a space that was obviously not made to be occupied by a human body? Was it trying to be absolutely still and silent for undetermined amounts of time, just hoping that the person who was “it” would pass you by? No, I think it mostly had to do with a “controlled sense of anxiety” that came from not knowing whether or not you would be discovered. I say a “controlled sense of anxiety” because 1) you knew that whether or not you were found, you were going to be OK, and 2) often times there was something that represented a safe base that you could run back to and be safe from the person who was “it.”
When it comes to developing security and courage to face new experiences, kids need to know that they can look back and return to that safe base when things get difficult in their new situations. They need to know that if something happens they can return home to that safe base to be loved and refueled so they can return to face whatever their current situation is in life. This is why even college students call home and touch base with their parents often after they leave their parents’ homes.
As parents are able to work through their own fears that are brought up by the transitions their children go through, and show confidence in their child’s ability to handle the new situation, their children will feel it and be better able to deal with the stress of change. Additionally, parents can help their children through transitions by making themselves available to their children, and by welcoming their children back to them to assure their children and help them refuel so they can return to face the world again.
Shiloh Lundahl is a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa. He provides both in-office and in-home therapy to children, as young as infants, and their families throughout the East Valley. He teaches parenting classes including the popular Becoming A Love and Logic Parent® parenting class. He owns Parent Arizona and Counseling Services (parentarizona.com) and is associated with Arizona Family Institute (www.arizonafamilyinstitute.com). He is married and has three beautiful children.