Seeing the Beauty in Change: From Caterpillar to Butterfly

July 26th, 2013

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. -Author Unknown 

Three years ago my family and I moved from one part of our town to another, from a smaller house to a much larger house; we were in the same county but in completely different areas. Last night, we drove by the old house, the first house my husband and I ever purchased together, the house where I brought all four of my babies home, the house where I loved and buried my first real pet.

“I don’t miss it,” I said.

“Me either,” said my husband. “But I remember the day we left. You were all torn up.”

He is right. I cried like a baby. As I walked from room to room, I could vividly recall scenes from my past. Like a hazy black and white movie, I could see a very pregnant me and my new puppy rolling on the living room floor. I pictured the day I brought my first son home from the hospital and showed him his new room. I could hear the pitter-patter of little feet running circles through the dining room and onto the wooden kitchen floor. So I cried, not because I didn’t want to move. I was actually very excited about the move. We had found our dream home. I cried because I don’t really like change, even good change. I cried because of what I was leaving behind.

I know I am not the only one. Many people struggle with change. It is natural. We grow comfortable in our surroundings. Even when things are “not great” there is a certain security in knowing what to expect, a certain contentment that is found in the predictable. For most of us, it is human nature to resist change. But, of course, change is inevitable. Growth, of any kind, requires change. If there were no change, life would be stagnant, stale and (dare I say) boring.

Change is a part of life. It is a part of our lives as adults, but it is also a part of the lives of children. And, if as adults we have difficulty with change, we should realize that children have difficulty as well.

Don’t get me wrong, children are very adaptable. Sometimes they seem to have a much greater capacity to adjust to various situations than we do. After all, the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has some truth in it. Still, we should never think that change is easy for them.

Maybe they are just changing to a new grade in school, or maybe they are dealing with their parent’s divorce. Maybe their family has recently moved, or they are experiencing natural bodily changes due to growth. Maybe a loved one has passed away, or maybe they have recently acquired a new sibling. Whatever the changes in their lives, children experience many of the same feelings as we do. They worry. They get excited. They fear. They get nervous. They anticipate. They grieve. They miss. They look forward. Change elicits a variety of emotions, and because children don’t have as many life experiences to learn from, this roller coaster of emotions can be very confusing. So, how can you help children learn to not only face change but to also embrace it?

Be aware of the changes in your child’s life. Recognize the indicators of stress. Watch for differences in eating, sleeping, or bathroom habits. Is your child talking less or more than usual? Has bed-wetting become a problem when it wasn’t before? Is your child more withdrawn or hyperactive than usual? Keep yourself informed of the changes in your child’s life so you can better help your children to face them.

Initiate a conversation with your children. Talk about the changes that are taking place. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Take time to talk to them about what is happening, what is going to happen, the good, the bad, what is known, and what is unknown, and then encourage them to talk to you about how they are feeling. Listen! Listen! Listen!

Maintain familiar routines as much as possible. Some things have to change. Some things can (almost always) stay the same. For example, where we sleep at night might change, but bedtime routines often do not have to change. If you always read a story and kiss your child goodnight, then maintain that routine, even if you are in a hotel, shelter, or at a friend’s house. If you always eat lunch at 11:30, try to keep that consistent—even if it means pulling over and eating a sandwich at a rest stop or grabbing a burger together at the concession stand. Small consistencies help children maintain a feeling of security.

Plan ahead and prepare. Don’t wait until the last minute to tell your children about an upcoming change. Give children time to think about it, to process and prepare, and to ask questions. For example, start talking about grade and class changes well before the first day of school. If possible, introduce your children to their new teachers before school begins. Ask for a tour of the new classroom or school. Many schools offer Open House sessions prior to the beginning of school for this very reason.

Be positive but don’t dismiss their feelings. Emphasize the positive aspect of change, but never diminish the way your children are feeling, even if their reactions seem outrageous to you. You may not be able to reason with your children, but you can always pray with them about their feelings. Help them to remember that God knows what they are going through. God loves them and is with them to help them through even the most difficult circumstances.

Use stories to help. Read children’s stories about change, specifically the kinds of changes that your child is facing. Tell positive stories from your own experiences that might help your children to understand that you can relate to what they are feeling.

Remind children of the constants in their lives. Your children need to know that there are some constants in life. Malachi 3:6 reminds us that God does not change. Children can be assured that God loves them very much and will always love them. They should also be assured of your love and the love of other family members. Don’t make promises that cannot be kept (such as “I will always be here.”) but do reassure your children in any way you can. Read Romans 8:38 which says (in part), “I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord…” Discuss all the changes that are occurring in your children’s lives and then ask, “Can that separate us from God?” Encourage your child to answer, “No, nothing can separate us from God’s love.”

As I looked at the yard and house where I lived for thirteen years, I couldn’t help but notice that the new owners had made a lot of changes. They had planted new trees and plants in places where we had not. There was an added walkway, and the trees my husband had planted had grown substantially; there was now shade in areas where there had previously been sun. Things looked different. Things had changed, and it was okay. I don’t miss it, not one bit. I know now that the things that made that house the most special to me were the memories I created there, and those memories will never change, and they will never disappear. I carry them with me wherever I go. I love our new home, and we have and are continuing to make wonderful new memories there.

When we help our children learn to cope with various transitions in their lives, we are helping them develop an important life skill. But the greater challenge is to help them not only effectively cope but to also see the hope in change. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This is a difficult thing to grasp, but we can help our children to take small steps towards this as we encourage them to look for the good that comes in every situation. Then, like the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly, we can all begin to see the beauty in change. 

Source

Rossmanith, Angela. Helping Kids Cope with Change. Kidslife.com. Accessed July 16, 2013. 

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