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My philosophy during periods of change or transition for my kids is simple – their response will depend on our reaction.
I’ve already stated in a previous post how much I am out of my comfort zone making new friends – but my kids don’t need to know that! When we sat them down and started talking to them about moving to France, I could see their little brains ticking over behind their big brown eyes. Hubby and I waited for it and on queue, my big boy asks, ‘but what about our friends Mummy?’.
‘Well‘, I said ‘That’s the great thing about moving, we get to not only keep our friends here but we also get to make new friends!’.
We smile. Pause. Hold breath. Wait.
‘Cool, do you think they will love football like me?‘ Said my youngest boy.
Phew. Large sigh of relief.
Of course they will we said. Then we got stuck into some of the detail of what our new city will be like, that they will need to learn a new language which is incredibly cool and they get to go to a new school and try something different.
Excitement took over at this point. But we knew there would be more. Every now and again questions come out of the blue. ‘Will we get to come back?‘, ‘What about our house – who will live in it?‘.
We have to manage our boys differently. Our eldest is outgoing, super confident and adapts very well to change. While our youngest is also outgoing and confident he is also more sensitive, likes routine, is more hesitant to change and well, he just likes things the way they are now. Recently at my youngest’s parent-teacher meeting, his teacher told me that he had expressed that he was very sad to be leaving. As he hadn’t asked us any questions about the move in a while we thought it might be time for another family meeting.
Since the day we left NZ we have always told the boys that home is not where a house is, but is where our family is. When the 5 of us are together, it doesn’t matter where we are, we are home.
Our youngest especially really finds comfort in this thought and to be honest so do I. One of my greatest fear is that we will go back to NZ, the boys will grow up, travel, marry a foreign girl and live in another country. The selfish part of me wants to drum into them that they need to stay close to Mum and Dad. But then I also think of my Mum & Dad who would never have been so selfish as to stop me or even to make me feel guilty about following a dream.
When I was 17 I got offered a contract to play professional hockey in Italy for 6 months. I never remember Mum or Dad showing anything other than excitement for me and this opportunity. Both of my parents played competitive sport and I think for them this was an opportunity that they would’ve relished had it ever been offered to them at my age. I was in Italy less than a week when I made my first teary call home. I hated it, I wanted them to come and get me, I needed to be home, this was all a big mistake. Dad got on the phone and said, ‘Squirt, this is a great chance for you to do something new and if you come home now you’ll always regret it. You’ve made a commitment to the club and you need to follow through’. He finished by telling me to call whenever I needed to, he’d always be there for me. It was years later that Mum & Dad both told me that that day their hearts broke and Mum had to physically stop Dad getting on a plane to come and get me. But because they never showed doubt, they showed only faith in me and confidence that I was doing the right thing, I believed them and I did stay on. I even went back the following year.
It wasn’t just this situation that I’ve applied Dad’s advice, I’ve used it my whole life. Kids will respond the same way – If I show confidence and excitement then that will frame their perspective. If I show worry and fear, then that will dominate their mindset. As a sportsperson, I couldn’t afford to focus on mistakes made during a match – I had to reframe my thoughts positively and look at the next play and to focus on my next skill or task. Doubt, fear and negativity grow deep roots if you pay them too much attention.
Either way, as a parent I believe that dealing with change is something my kids need to experience whether they like it or not. The message we want them to hear is that we will always face new adventures and challenges together as a family and that its ok to talk about your feelings. Only time will tell if our approach will work!
In the real world things happen, best laid plans and all that. I want my kids to face those challenges with the ability to see a situation for what it is and respond in the most positive way possible. When the boat is taking on water, you want the person who will help bail for life – not the melancholy soul who gives up. I’ll tell them that I’m nervous or worried but I don’t let it dominate the conversation. What dad taught me was that while we need to acknowledge the darker emotions (worry, fear, uncertainty) with our kids, I also need to teach them to look for the light. You’ll never know if you don’t try or as the great Wayne Gretzky said ‘you miss 100% of the shots you never take“.
Much love, Jaimee Sarah
My advice for Helping kids through change:
- Initially, don’t make it into a big deal. Introduce the idea casually and ask how they would feel about it. ‘How would you boys feel if we went to live in France?’.
- Questions will come as they process the information so don’t push them or force the conversation. Our boys would often just switch off and ask about dinner or if they could go play – When they are ready and at the most random of times, they will casually bring it up again.
- Start mentioning the new place every day. We started teaching our boys French words and every day Hubby comes home the boys rush up and say ‘Comment ca va papa?’. ‘Ca va bien’ says Hubby ‘et toi?’ ‘Ca va, merci’
- Show pictures and watch videos if possible. Whether its a new school, a new house or a new city. Point out the exciting and beautiful things and start talking like you’re there “I can’t wait till we are riding our bikes along that river path, how hot do you think it will be?”. We use Google earth a lot to do drive bys.
- Acknowledge the darker feelings and tell them its normal, you have them too.
- Keep the conversation open and anytime they ask a question, take the time to be present and answer it honestly.
- Young kids won’t really know to be scared unless its a reaction you show them – so stay positive and never let them hear you talking in a worried or concerned way about things that don’t concern them.
- Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. So involve them in some conversations and decisions.
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