Helping Children Embrace Change

By Constance Ndeleko

As the adage goes, “Change is inevitable.” Children go through different phases in life whereby they need adults to stand firm with them through different transitions.

Sometimes change could be easy and smooth but at times it could be difficult and painful especially when children are feeling stuck.

As witnessed during the pandemic, change has made children ask myriads of questions e.g. will they be able to play with their friends? Will life go back to normal? Will they be able to go back to school and how will they learn especially with new covid-19 restrictions? Will they be able to access equal opportunities?

On the other side children with and beyond different boarders have also questioned their realities eg. Will they be able to have peace due to the on and off conflicts? Will they be able to have a normal life as migrants and asylum seekers? Will they be able to have a home/shelter? Will they be able to connect with the digital platforms like other children? Will they be able escape hunger, drought and natural calamities that have been hitting them hard? Will they be able to be enjoy the same rights as every child in the world? Will they be included in decisions that concern them?

Africa is the place that is becoming home to more children than any other place on earth. Already, 77% of the population is below the age of 35.

Graça Machel has warned: “Even though our youth have the potential to transform Africa, if neglected, they could exacerbate poverty and inequality while threatening peace, security and prosperity”. Therefore, we must be proactive in ensuring we meet the needs of this burgeoning population.

“Life is change, and the key to a fulfilled, meaningful life often lies in our ability to manage change effectively.”

Thus, it is crucial that we teach our children about graceful transitions by practicing with them coping skills. We should teach them that things change under different circumstances which will awaken a diverse emotions either happy ones or sad ones depending on the situation.

Our children will go through some huge changes during their lifetime just as we did. It may be a change in school, adolescent stage,  loss of a loved one, a change in having to dress a certain way (like how people are being required to wear masks or even social distance for the first time in history), parents separating or divorcing, moving homes or even change in friends.

What every child should understand is that all humans experience change and uncertainty throughout their lives. Thus, there’s a clear need for our children to have the aptitude to navigate these waters without drowning themselves.

What I have been noticing is that most caregivers are having a hard time knowing what to do. So, how can we help children navigate through these transitions?

  • Informing your children of the change. Preparing our children for change is an important skill.
  • It is beneficial to teach them at an early stage that these changes are often easier to arrange.
  • Talk to them about the change and what it means for them.
  • Give as much notice as you can and continue to remind them of the change.
  • If it is a change in their schedule let them know what to expect from this change. A visual reminder like marking it on the calendar would be beneficial and serve as a reference point.
  • The most important thing we need to instill in our children as we help them learn to cope with change is that many changes we experience are good changes. Change is healthy.
  • Transitions are the perfect opportunity to start a new habit of kindness.

“In navigating many paths of change, we’ve learned that even though structure, rules, boundaries, routine, and familiar environment are requirements to feel safe and self-assured, change is a friend, not a foe most times. Without change, there wouldn’t be butterflies. If we get upset when things don’t go (or stay) exactly as we expect, we will rarely be happy.”

Teaching our children to cultivate a positive outlook amid times of change is vital for their growth and development most especially in enhancing their mental health as they prepare to face life.

We can only bridge this with them as adults by encouraging them to face change with grace, self-compassion, generosity and courage to be able to face their realities even when the new normal doesn’t feel right at all. Change is a continuous, it is the one thing we can always count on.

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