Change is hard for kids. It was heart wrenching to see T process an unexpected change this week.
Change is harder for kids such as T.
If you hang out with the hubby and I, you’ll notice we give T ample warnings – 10, 5, 1 minutes before we move to the next activity, especially if T is currently doing a preferred activity.
It may seem excessive but sudden transitions often don’t go well with T, so we are proactive at using transitions to mitigate tantrums.
A few years ago, we learned about social stories and how these visual tools can help kids who struggle with social change.
In T’s case, his Montessori support created a social story to prepare him to move to a new classroom and teacher.
We read it several times the week before the change. He loved it so much it became a bedtime story staple for months after!
More recently, the pandemic brought a doozy of changes – lockdowns, virtual schooling, mask wearing, distancing – at an unrelenting pace. For adults, much less a child, it was overwhelming.
Big Unexpected Change
After recently receiving T’s FASD diagnosis, as much as we expected it, I didn’t want any more big life changes for a while.
Two weeks ago, T’s wonderful Child and Youth Worker, who has worked with T the last year and a half, let us know she got a new job and would leave very soon.
We were very happy for her moving to a dream role, but it still sucked because this was a huge loss for T. She was so good at her job and T and our family loved working with her.
My mind shifted into change management and how to set up the best transition for T.
Even though I knew it was a long shot, I asked if she could start her new role after Spring Break in four weeks. The break may give T a mental space between her and the new CYW.
Nice try but no cigar.
I asked if there could be a transition where both her and the new CYW worked together with T.
Thankfully, with the principal’s support, a new CYW was brought on to allow a full week transition with both CYWs this week.
The hubby, CYW and I discussed how we would break the news to T. We‘d tell T this past weekend and then she‘d tell him on Monday.
We kept the message simple: she’s leaving because she got a new job; T didn’t do anything wrong; she loves him; we will keep in touch.
We gave staff at T’s after school daycare a heads up, so they can be aware of and keep an eye out for potential behaviour symptoms.
While we were still sad with this change, it felt good to have a change plan in place.
When Best Laid Plans Don’t Go As Planned
The hubby and I broke the news to T on Sunday night after a fun afternoon of sledding.
He seemed to take the news ok and was glad to hear he would still see her this week.
Then the bomb dropped on Tuesday afternoon. His CYW let us know that it was her last day instead of the end of the week. It was a decision that was out of her and the principal’s hands.
Poor T was caught off guard like a deer in the headlights. He repeatedly told her, “But you said you had two more days.”
He cried during the bus ride from school to daycare. The empathetic staff let us know that he ran out into the hallway and around the school and was not himself.
Tuesday night was challenging. He was moody and emotional. During bedtime, he repeatedly talked about how sad he felt.
As a parent, I think it is important to let kids have the space and time to feel the fullness of their emotions.
But it still breaks my heart to see him sad. Processing big emotions with so little life experience as context is hard.
As I learned with change theory, there are four stages of acceptance – denial, anger, acceptance and commitment.
I see T experiencing the denial and anger stages right now.
Always Look Forward
The hubby and I are focused on guiding T forward, even though we feel the loss too.
The first day without his former CYW was expectedly up and down. His new CYW let us know he told her many times he felt sad.
On the bright side, we are thankful the new CYW is continuing to use the effective strategies that are already in place.
It also sounds like she has the savy and skills to recognize T’s boundary testing behaviour and to respond appropriately.
So despite the sudden and rocky change, there are many positives to focus on as we all help T move through this significant change.
Thankfully, we have a long weekend ahead and we are focused on relaxation.
Fingers crossed, we plan to have a curbside meetup with his CYW so T can have a calmer proper goodbye and both of them can have better closure, as I empathize this sudden change was difficult for her too.
Spring Break is around the corner and the three of us are using that as motivation to get through these next few weeks.
After all, if there is one constant thing in life, it’s change.