Superintendent, Logan City School District
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of us have been asked to respond to regular changes in our lives. Rules for personal interaction, time with friends and family, even the basic expectations for going out in public have been modified as our understanding of the virus has evolved.
Responding appropriately to these frequent changes has required all of us to become more adaptable, and we have observed on a global scale the challenges that occur when individuals and communities are unable to successfully adapt to the continually evolving situations they find themselves in.
So, although it isn’t a new idea, the pandemic has illustrated that adaptability is a skill that helps all of us live more positive, healthy lives. When we are able to readily adjust to different conditions, we put ourselves in a better position to handle those changes successfully and ensure that temporary changes in our environment do not have an unnecessarily oversized impact on our lives. For example, a family may move to a new home which requires a child to change schools. While every child might experience a bit of apprehension, a child who has been taught solid skills for adapting to the new environment will have an easier time making friends, participating in class, and looking at the new school as a positive opportunity.
Understanding the importance of adaptability as a personal skill, how do we help our children develop this skill? The adaptability that will help them appropriately navigate an ever-changing world and prepare them with the tools to address challenges they may face in their personal relationships, at school, in the workplace, and throughout their community?
Fortunately, there are hundreds of online resources available for parents. The Penfield Children’s Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has a brief overview of principles for helping children develop adaptability on their website. Some of the suggestions listed there include:
• Create a routine for your child, but make it flexible. Routines help children feel in control and safe. Make sure to allow for extra time for when things don’t go as planned, because let’s face it, sometimes they won’t. Is bedtime typically around 8 p.m.? Bend the rules a bit on Friday nights and let your child stay up late to finish a movie.
• Show your children how a change in plans does not mean they won’t have a good time. Did a playdate cancel? Acknowledge that your child might feel sad they cannot see their friend and say something like, “I know you feel bad that Liam can’t play, but now we can have a movie night, just you and me.” This will help them see that making new plans can be just as fun.
• Lead by example. If things don’t turn out as planned, how do you react? Control your urge to have a minor meltdown of your own and instead talk through what happened and think of a new idea or solution. Babysitter cancel? Enjoy a dinner out with the family instead and reschedule your dinner date for the following week.
• Be your child’s cheerleader. Offer praise and words of encouragement when your child shows adaptability. Did you have plans to play at the park that got rained out? Saying to your child, “I know you’re sad that we can’t go to the park, but I really like your idea for visiting the library instead,” helps them feel confident in their abilities to embrace change and go-with-the-flow.
The changes we each may have to manage throughout our lives are unpredictable. However, learning to adapt to those changes will allow our children to practice flexibility, while also maintaining control of their life as they grow older.