The Double Standard to Accepting Change: Kids vs. Adults

Some people balk at new situations or big changes in life. In fact, it’s become an inside joke between my husband and me – whenever we need to make a big decision, the joke is that we’ll get back to someone in 3-6 months, once my husband has time to wrap his head around the changes that will result from the decision we need to make.

It’s almost expected, or at least allowed, for an adult to not like change. Our brains see change as different and dangerous and, using emotions, try to guide us away from it.

As a society, we’ve even created labels to help us connect with others who are like us because being different is so uncomfortable. Extroverts vs. introverts. Drivers vs. analytics. The book worm vs. the social butterfly.

It doesn’t matter what labels you use; it helps us, as adults, wrap our heads around how people engage and interact with their world.

But what about kids? I’ve seen such a variety of behaviors in kids, just like in adults, yet it’s almost frowned upon when a kid doesn’t want to jump right into something new. My 3-year old, for example, hates when routine is shifted. He doesn’t like when he doesn’t know what’s happening. He doesn’t like when things seem to be out of his control. He’s not always comfortable in a new environment, at least not right away. He has yet to learn how to understand and manage change.

Whenever someone comments on his behavior, saying that it’s “strange” or “unusual” for a little boy to be so reserved, I calmly remind them that 1) it makes navigating being a mother of three boys a little easier that they’re not all escape artists and dare devils and 2) it’s not for them to worry about.

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Easier said than done, though, right? When you hear a criticism or opinion from someone else about your own children, you start to notice things that may not have been apparent to you before. You see things through a different lens. And then you start to wonder if something is wrong, or if you’re doing something wrong that encourages that behavior.

So I’m going to say it: let’s lift the double standard. Let’s guide our kids to learn how to navigate their world in their own way. Let’s be their guardrails, helping to guide them to figure out who they are, what they’re good at and what they love to do in their own way and in their own time. After all, it is their life. We are just custodians charged with helping them figure out who they are and how to be authentic. Their lives are not our lives. Our lives are not theirs.

Regardless of how well you may roll with the punches, I think we’re all inherently the same: we don’t like to not know what’s coming. We don’t like when things are out of our control. We don’t like to shift from our normal behaviors. When we go somewhere new, we often take a friend with us so we’re not alone. When we try something new, it’s not without nerves that we learn how to overcome.

It’s where the phrase “creature of habit” comes from. I think most of us are like this. We park in the same parking spot. We shop on the same day. We get the same food or drink from our restaurant of choice. I, personally, am a creature of habit. I like my routines because creating these routines helps me feel more grounded and in control in my world.

So let’s help our kids learn how to create successful and grounding routines. Let’s help them see and accept change because they have confidently learned how to manage it in a way that makes sense for them. Change is truly the one constant, so the sooner we can guide our kids to knowing and appreciating it instead of fearing and resenting it, the more capable they will be in today’s world.

DISCLAIMER: Some behaviors seen in children certainly do warrant special attention. If you find yourself wondering if a specific behavior you’re seeing in your child(ren) may need some correction, it’s best to seek professional help (pediatrician, specialist, etc.) for guidance, advice and, if needed, treatment.

Take Action

Stop and notice when your child is resistant to change. Do they shy away from it? Refuse to try something new? Do they lash out and seem angry? Whatever behavior you may see, ask the important question: “why?” This can help you identify what environments are inspiring these behaviors and help them learn how to navigate these and others. In the process you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by quickly and confidently your child learns how to manage their world in a way that matters to them.

By Kristin Allaben

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