How to Help Kids Take Control of Their Response to Change

By Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., author of Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn
Part of our Cash in on Learning series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.

How to Help Kids Take Control of Their Response to Change

Change happens. Typically, we deal with slow changes, and we have the opportunity to adjust to those changes. But as 2020 has shown us, the world can change around us very rapidly and in many different ways. In the midst of change, we often feel like we have no power over it, and this feeling of powerlessness can be something that takes control of us. However, we can learn to manage, adjust to, and take control of rapid change and of our feelings about it.

As I’ve long professed, feelings and emotions are different things. Emotions are chemical reactions that happen within the limbic system, specifically the amygdala, that cause our brains and bodies to respond. Our outward verbal and nonverbal responses (our affect) are called feelings. Most feelings are manageable, whereas emotions are a natural response to stimuli. I am—just as many of you and your children are—feeling helpless amidst the massive changes happening in the world right now.

Here are eight ways for you and your students to manage, adjust to, and take control of change.

1. Acknowledge That Change Is Happening

Put words to it, write it down, and share your thoughts with others. Younger children can draw what is going on—use before-and-after pictures to help them recognize and accept that change is happening.

2. Respect Your Fears

State what about the change makes you anxious, sad, enraged, frustrated, and so forth. Then decide what to do with those feelings. Negative feelings have an adverse effect on our body’s systems. Lingering in the negative will only make it worse. Plan what to do when the negative feelings overtake you: go for a walk, talk to a friend, immerse yourself into your passions, binge a TV series, or practice yoga or meditation. Do not run or hide from negative feelings—acknowledge them and try to move forward.

3. Know That Change Cannot Be Stopped—It Must Be Embraced

Decide which parts of the change are you willing to be flexible with, and which parts of the change you will have the most difficulty with. Lean into the flexibility, and use that to deal with the difficult. Look for the silver lining in change—not everything about it is negative.

4. Rely Upon Your Faith, Spirituality, Humanism

Sometimes you must let go of what you cannot control and trust that there is a higher power or a greater good that will guide you. For your students, help them define what they believe about being human—what makes someone a good person, someone who contributes to the betterment of all humankind. Develop a sense of caring for others in your classroom, home, or neighborhood. Make caring common!

5. Surround Yourself with Positive Influences

Avoid naysayers or those who refuse to acknowledge that change will happen. Seek out people or environments that can help you look positively on the changes around you.

6. Model Your Positivity for Your Children and Others

Children need to see examples of healthy ways to deal with stressful situations. Openly talk about what you are feeling, what you are doing that is healthy, and what plans you are making to remain that way. Celebrate your successes and encourage children to celebrate when they have “leaned into” change.

7. Run an Internal Positive Dialogue with Yourself

Positive self-talk can have a tremendous impact on building your confidence toward dealing with change. Self-talk can be the running commentary in your head, something that you say out loud, or something you write down. You can also use affirmations, prayer, or mantras, such as, “I will embrace this change and find good all around me.” You can find many more affirmations and mantras by doing an internet search.

8. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

It is important to talk about your feelings, letting others know about your fears, anxieties, stresses, and so forth. Know that others are feeling the same way you are and that they may have ideas to help you manage, adjust to, and take control of change.

Crucial to managing, adjusting to, and taking control of change is knowing how to self-regulate. Affect (how you feel), behavior (what you do), and cognition (how you think) are interwoven and must be addressed together—one without the other two causes an imbalance. For more on self-regulation, please check out my book Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn.

Here are a few silver linings I’ve found recently:

  • I’ve gotten to know my neighbors better—from six feet apart.
  • I’ve taken the time to get to work on my to-do list. I’m nowhere near finished, but at least I’ve started.
  • I’m taking naps whenever possible.
  • I’m taking my dogs on longer walks.
  • I’m taking time for myself.
  • I’m getting to know my husband even better.
  • I know I can manage, adjust to, and take control of how I respond to change.
  • Respect and accept that change will happen. Embrace change like a new friend and develop that friendship for the better.

Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.

Free Spirit books by Richard Cash:

Self-regulation Advancing Differentiation Revised and Updated Edition

Differentiation For Gifted Learners

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FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

About Richard M. Cash, Ed.D.

Writes the "Cash in on Learning" post series for Free Spirit Publishing.
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