Challenges of Change

Dear Parentworks,

My child hates changes! Even the good ones - like if we say we are going on a vacation - to DISNEYLAND! Of course this means that she also hates having a new classroom every year and a new teacher and new friends to make. She's always been like this but as an 8 year old I'd think she'd realize that it always works out. How do I make her get over this near phobia of resistance?

- Phobia of resistance

Dear Resistance,

You mention yourself that she's "always been like this" which should be your first clue that this is an inborn temperamental trait for her. Some human beings, on the spectrum of this category of change are at the far end of disliking anything that results in a disruption of the status quo. (The other end of the spectrum is people who are constantly craving change - as adults, they are the ones frequently switching jobs or moving to new cities.)

"Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinkas is a book I frequently recommend and can be found on the ParentWorks Books page. Many parents are under the impression that if their child is not running down the hall screaming their lungs out then they are not a "Spirited Child". Ms. Kurcinkas outlines a number of temperamental traits and offer tips for parents to help their child come to terms with each of their personality traits.

It can be challenging to parents who are not at either end of the spectrum on certain temperamental traits to believe that these feelings are very real for their child. You must also realize that you will not nor should you try to "make her get over this" or label her as phobic. What you can do is help provide her with coping skills and let her know that you understand these things are upsetting to her. Your acknowledgement of her concerns will help to let her know that someone "gets it" that it is a big deal for her. Acknowledgement does not mean that it will change anything though. While she is perfectly entitled to her feelings it doesn't mean that she will stay in the same classroom year after year with the same teacher. Ironically, allowing her to know it's OK to be upset about the changes can actually free her from needing to go on and on about it and can actually shorten her duration of resistance.

Change can represent losing the familiar, the comfortable and starting over again with the unknown. While this represents excitement in some, indifference in others and fear in some - none of these responses should be judged to be superior to the others. They just are what they are. By learning more about your own style of relating to the world and your temperamental traits you will be able to gain insight into the occasions where you are similar to your daughter and those where you are not. But remember, neither is better. As parents, we tend to value the characteristics that we have and demean the ones which are less relatable. An ancient saying states that if you try to pull someone to your way of thinking you will only receive more resistance. Instead go with them a bit and then you will be in a better position to gently turn them in a different direction. You will be giving your daughter the give of self esteem and confidence through helping her feel OK about who she is and her own needs while developing skills to move beyond her fears. These are vital and lifelong lessons which are important for both of your to learn.