By Dr. MaryRuth Hackett, PhD, Together Let Us Go Forth Magazine
When I was in college, my mother put a pink Post-it Note on my door. It remained there even after I married and had a home of my own, for written on the note in blue pen was a reminder we both needed during that time of transition:
A bend in the road
is not the end of the road
unless you fail to make the turn.
It was a reminder that change is merely part of life, to be expected and even embraced. And just as I now teach my teens to accelerate through the curve as they learn to drive, we too need to learn to accelerate through the curves in our life.
Change is an essential catalyst for growth in life. In scientific terms, we are always either growing or dying — nothing living is ever truly static. In medical terms, atrophy refers to the death or decay of a cell or some aspect of the human body. The opposite of such is to ameliorate, improve, enhance, or become better.
Developmental psychologists describe cognitive growth as a process by which the brain is stressed and stretched, and growth results as an outcome of this pressure. Brains which are not challenged do not face the same level of growth.
Athletes know this to be true of the body as well. In order to get a muscle to grow and become stronger, the muscle fibers themselves must be shredded through exercise. They must undergo pressure in order to grow stronger; this growth is uncomfortable and even painful at times. I recently came across some research on what is called the “athlete’s heart.” Cardiologists report that some endurance athletes have a heart with greater mass, different heart sounds, and even some restructuring of the actual organ. The intense training leads to a changed heart.
It’s true, too, of our spiritual life! Change can draw us closer and deeper to Him; however, it can also turn us inward and fill us with despair. How can we embrace change rather than let it overwhelm us? How can we help our children to deal better with the inevitable changes that come in everyday life?
Do’s and don’ts of change
- Do: give your children plenty of warning when a change is coming and present it with optimism, not fear.
- Do Not: ask them for their opinions or permission for the change, if the matter has already been decided. This actually increases stress.
- Do: listen to your children’s fears and worries. Ask them if there are any small things that you could do to help them adjust to the change.
- Do Not: try to convince them that they shouldn’t feel as they do.
- Do: make their role in the change clear —
i.e., you will be expected to pack your room,
be ready to go on time, help me in this specific way. This helps them to see what they can control and are responsible for doing.
- Do Not: give in to the drama when the things are out of your control. If decisions have already been made at a higher level, don’t fret about them. Accept them and move on.
- Do: look for the silver linings. Sometimes, that silver lining will simply be that you are going to grow as individuals and together as a family through the change.
Sometimes, our children’s inability to accept change is a reflection of our own inability to deal with our own change. When we cannot change the actual situation, we need to change our reaction to the situation. Therefore, when faced with change, we must make sure to first get a hold of our own emotional reaction to change. Take your struggle to the Lord in prayer and ask the Lord to help you identify what virtue is being challenged. Invite Him to help you grow in that area and learn to accelerate through the curves on the road ahead.
The most intense growth occurs under pressure, when we are made to think and act in new ways. One of the clearest ways we can grow in the face of challenges is in our trust. We must recognize that God wants us to succeed in holiness and then trust that He will equip us for the struggles that come, regardless of how difficult the challenges may be (Matruin 2016).
We need to develop a deeper trust in Him, in the reality that we are created for a purpose, and that He has given us all that we need for the work He has put before us. Change can bring us closer to the Lord because it creates an opportunity for us to grow in endurance and character, which leads us to hope. And that hope becomes a trust in the Lord.
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Aspects of this piece were adopted from Dr. Hackett’s new book Daughter by Design: Discovering Your Identity as God’s Beloved Daughter, available now at maryruthhackett.com.
MaryRuth Hackett, PhD, is a mom of four with a doctorate in educational psychology, specializing in child development. She hosts the Parenting Smarts podcast and blogs at Parenting with Peer Review.
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