I’m not a huge fan of big changes. I don’t mind swapping things up by trying a new restaurant, maybe giving thought to changing the shop where I get my business attire from, or even having to make alternate plans for the weekend because something’s come up. That might make me sound like a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, but I simply like to plan, like to have some assurance of next steps and even like to have my contingencies sorted.

Put something like changing mortgage providers, dealing with a family member who announces they’re separating, coping with the “cancer” word in my friend group, or just adjusting to being a parent of independent young adults … well, I can have my moments of being in a spin!

Of course, it gives me some insight into how some of our families, our students, our friends are doing life regularly in a stage of managing chaos or significant change or constantly moving goalposts. And this can be hard. Sometimes the very things that are going on for our kids are things outside the classroom, and before they sit in a room on a chair and engage with new work, they’re already struggling with a “messy” life. And they’re genuinely struggling to focus or absorb what they need to.

So I had a bit of a stocktake this week, especially after Mark’s exciting announcement that changes our Charlton landscape significantly – and then how we continue this year, celebrating where we are (and who our Principal has been), thinking about where the next chapter will take us, and how our students and families will be navigating yet another thing on their plates. It gave me cause to consider, “how can we do change well?” And even more so, “how can we help our kids cope with change?”

Honestly, there’s a plethora of information out there, from ten easy steps down to just five (yes, that’s all it takes in someone’s opinion) to manage change! And I guess I might agree or point you in a few directions for that. But what are the things that hit the mark for me? Well, here are my five go-to’s. There’ll be more, yes, but they kick-start my frame of mind in coping with change:

  1. Communication. Communication. Talking with your kids (and that might be simply at first, or just a few details) makes a difference. Small drops of information set the tone for managing what’s coming. My mum’s journey with pancreatic cancer lasted a few years. When she passed away in 2012, our girls had been on the emotional journey with us almost from the beginning. We didn’t hide anything, but we shared our tears, our challenges, our prayers and the information in ways that helped them understand (at ages 5, 7 and 9) what was going on. We visited with mum on holidays, at home and in hospital throughout those years and didn’t shy away from the sometimes tricky chats around what might happen and what was actually going on. Take your kids on the journey with you.
  2. Monitor Your Own Emotional Input. This can be hard, especially when a change is energised by your own grief, anger, distress, fear or anxiety. But our kids quickly pick up what’s going on for us! They may not have the words to articulate it, but they know. When we inject emotion into the divorce, the house sale, or the friendship drama happening for them at school, they take it on and they are propelled to new levels of their own anxiety, fear, anger, etc as well as yours!
  3. Let It Be Messy. Kids have questions. They’ll ask a hundred more than we plan. They’ll have meltdowns, get angry, cry a river or retreat into themselves. Be prepared to be challenged, yelled at, cried over, shut out. But go back to point one! Keep communicating. Embrace the messy and keep talking through it. They WILL work it through with you!
  4. Keep Things Moving. Routines aren’t a bad thing AT ALL. The assurance of a daily plan or aspects of the day/week/weekend that are known quantities give stability or something to pivot the rest of the chaos around. Sometimes even getting them up, getting them to school and ensuring that routine is established (even when they think they “just can’t”) is a big win. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” is a great motto (thanks, Marlen)!
  5. Never Underestimate the Power of Prayer and God’s Word. Handing things over to a powerful and present God can lift a weight, change perspective and relieve your child of a burden they might feel they’re carrying on their own. So many times we’ve done this as a family and it helps us let go. The Bible is a wonderful source of strength too. One of my favourite texts is 1 Peter 5:7 – “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” – reminding us we’re not on our own and He will do the journey with us!

Here are some more links, but I hope this gave you a reminder (or a nudge in the right direction) on how we can help each other navigate change!

Mr Benton Craig / Deputy Principal