Dear Parents and Colleagues:
Why is a discussion about change necessary? When and why do things change? It is often said: “The only constant in life is Change”.
For children life is constantly changing. They are constantly changing due to their developmental maturing.Their physical and cognitive skills are constantly in flux and as such their perception of the world changes and evolves. As they develop, our perceptions and expectations of our children change as well. Change can be a good thing, fixing something, making it better, it can be a bad or sad thing, such as loosing someone you love. In most cases, change can be perceived as having both positives and negatives, some known and some unknown. Change can cause anxiety if we have fears, worries or concerns as we don’t always know what is going to happen when things change.
In our school, all year we work setting up routines and schedules, to provide consistency for each of our children so that they come to feel comfortable by knowing what to expect. We provide as best we can, consistent expectations. Each teacher and related service provider are part of the schedules but they provide more than consistency, they should be providing emotional constancy. This means that as teachers we provide care in terms of love and support and each of us in our own way become attached to the child as the child becomes attached to us.
Beginning in December of each year we start preparing the paper work for our aging out children; our children turning five years of age, “T5s”. By the end of January, the paper work is done. But the real challenging tasks in preparing our children for kindergarten is just beginning. Our T5s need to be prepared for change as do our children within our school, who are changing teachers and/or classrooms, aging up from 3 to 4-year-old classrooms.
During the period, February through September we must be aware that all of us are going to be dealing with changes in our jobs, who we work with respect to colleagues and losing the children we have come to care for and love. Many of us don’t like change and prefer not to talk about it. But talking about moving on, change, in life is part of life. Weather we talk about it or not, change and loss happens. As teachers, it is our responsibility to talk about it and be aware of the children’s feelings. As parents, teachers and clinicians it is important to let the children know as best we can what is going to happen to them. It is important to find out what they are thinking and feeling about moving on to the “big school”. What are their fears and thoughts? Are they excited about meeting new people, making new friends, being with an older sibling at the “same school”, meeting new challenges and mastering them? Are they feeling scared and/or sad about losing teachers they have come to know and love?
As we know sometimes our children cannot speak well due to developmental delays. But even typical children will have difficulty talking about change and loss depending on the parenting and/or social environment. If children cannot talk about things, they may well act out. This leads us to our children who have behavioral challenges and trying to understand the “communicative function of the behavior”. (That is, what is the child trying to tell us by acting the way they do?)
It is a good idea to start talking about change in general and perhaps making changes in routine and schedule so it can be experienced and talked about.
What do you do if the child says he does not want to go to a new school or change something? We can ask why and try and get to the feelings and thoughts. We can then validate them. If they don’t want to leave you, we can understand, by being empathetic. Emphasize new teachers and others will care for him or her. Make new friends and learn about new people. Perhaps take pictures of you and the child so they can take that with them. Don’t make false promises about seeing them after they leave, they must learn to deal with the change and loss. If you speak honestly about the future and the loss, that will take them a long way in preparing them for whatever reality they are going to face. Thinking about the positive things in the relationship they have had with you, thinking about and feeling the good feelings inside in their heart and mind will be a way of coping with change in the future.
As always, I am available for consultation.
Adam J. Holstein, P.D., L.P.