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THE ADAPTABLE CHILD
We all want to prepare our children for the future. But with the future so uncertain, it’s hard to know what has lasting value. In fact, the only thing we can be sure of in life is change. Coping with change is in itself a skill and in the end, it may be the most essential lesson we teach our kids. On the one hand, mastering something new is stimulating and satisfying. On the other hand, it means the loss of what is familiar and reassuring. When we appreciate the duality of change, we can help our children enjoy the challenge and excitement without denying the likelihood of discomfort and anxiety.

Perhaps the best way to understand how children adapt to transition, both big and small, is to start from your child’s point of view. For children, change is different than it is for adults. They have to cope with many more changes than adults. This includes everything from changes in body size to changes in ability and interests. Change in children’s lives is mostly involuntary, and so more stressful. A sense of powerlessness is a big part of children’s lives. Children also don’t have the life experience that adults have to put things in perspective.

To help our children become more skilled at handling the changes life inevitably brings:

• Get your own emotions in order. Children often find it difficult to cope with change not because it upsets them directly but because it seems to threaten the stability of the adults they depend upon. To help, talk about your feelings. If you handle stress openly and in an easy-going way, your children learn to do the same.

• Get rid of guilt. Come to grips with your own decision. Children are very accepting when you’re candid about doing your best.

• Be honest about the consequences of change. Kids count on their parents for the truth. They know when something’s bothering you, and they may conjure up some far worse scenario if you’re not honest.

• Assure your child that no matter what, you are a family and that you’ll take care of him.

• Let your child participate. Give her a task that contributes meaningfully. Teach her to problem-solve with you to arrive at a suitable resolution.

• Hold firmly to family routines. Structure provides stability, so it is especially important during periods of change.

• Be patient. Everyone has their own clock. If we show our children how to respond to change with strength, flexibility, imagination, and even a little humor, we are giving them a skill that will stand them in good stead no matter what their lives bring.

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