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The only constant is change...

Nothing in our lives is permanent. Each of us will go through periods of change — it is unavoidable! Going back to the ancient Greeks with Heraclitus’ famous words “The only thing that is constant is change.” Centuries later, his words have been echoed by many.

“There can be no life without change, and to be afraid of what is different or unfamiliar is to be afraid of life.” Theodore Roosevelt

Our job as parents is not to protect our kids from change or upset or challenge, it’s our job to prepare them.

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” Dolly Parton

Professor Joseph Fuller, from Harvard Business School and co-founder of Managing the Future of Work, was clear last week that adaptability is the one trait that “can help anyone reach their potential earlier than expected.”

Adaptability involves being able and willing to embrace change, adjust to new conditions, situations or environments, and being open to unexpected opportunities. It is crucial for resilience, being able to pivot or change track. It’s important for problem-solving, finding new ways to do things. And it’s a big part of emotional intelligence, being able to navigate through discomfort.

“We are kept emotionally fit by our ability to respond in new ways as our circumstances, environment and body change.” Philippa Perry, The Book You Want Everyone You Love To Read

Some children are more adaptable by nature, transitioning smoothly from one activity to another and eager to take up new opportunities whether that’s a change of plan, an unexpected question, or an unfamiliar situation. And some find going with the flow more challenging and are reassured by routines and familiarity ….

The good news? Adaptability is like a muscle that can be strengthened through practice and opportunities for learning, accompanied by lots of positive support!

And the summer is a great opportunity to allow children the chance to try new things, struggle, and find their way through.

Here are some ideas to nurture adaptability so your child can fulfil their potential, whatever that may be, over the next few years!

Be open about the unfamiliar

Any change - whether we’ve hoped for it and worked towards it, or whether it’s happened to us and taken us by surprise in a positive or negative way - brings many (often complicated and even conflicting) feelings. Between us, at The Parent Team, we’ve seen our children go through many changes – starting schools, changing from day to boarding, moving and leaving school, joining university, studying abroad, graduating, travelling, interviewing, and into internships and jobs.

We need to be open and honest with our children about how it feels to go through a period of change – wanted or unwanted. Even positive much-longed for change is messy and unpredictable which can be quite disconcerting. If you’ve set yourself a goal, and worked hard to achieve it, there’s an expectation you will be wildly happy straight away. And it’s not like that. Change brings, well, changes …. There is always a period of adjustment, and maybe disillusion or disappointment. If the change has been thrust upon you, it’s hard to work through the shock, anger, or feeling of unfairness.

We simply can’t just say to our kids “Don’t worry, it will be great, it’s what you wanted, you’ll be fine”. This leaves them struggling alone with the difficult feelings they are experiencing, and a sense that they are wrong to be having those feelings. There’s a better way …

We need to say things like “It is hard to change, do something new, start something different, maybe you’re scared it isn’t going to be how you hoped, perhaps you’re worried about how you will manage, it’s natural to feel some discomfort and uncertainty.”

Ultimately, we want our children to embrace change and opportunity because we know that’s how they will learn and gain new skills. But it’s not going to happen when we insist that they will love change. It will happen when we give them the emotional strength to handle change. When they know they can handle it, they may choose to embrace more! Some more than others, but that’s OK.

Allow some flexibility at home

During the school year there is little room for spontaneity during the day. Summer allows for a little more creativity around what will happen and when because we don’t have to be quite as confined by schedule.

We’re not saying the summer should be a free-for-all with the kids running the show! In fact, the break from school is a great time to set kids some goals and you can read more about that in our 6 Strategies for Summer Success.

But keep your eyes out for moments when your child can make some choices about what they do, or when or how they do it – whether that’s music practice, tidying their room, packing for a holiday or preparing supper.

Being able to choose gives children a sense of agency which makes them feel more secure and confident. They feel trusted and autonomous. And they can take those feelings, developed and strengthened in known situations, into unknown or unexpected situations.

Put your child on the front foot

When changes are looming ahead, it’s much more effective to talk with your child in advance about the upcoming changes and discover how much they understand about what’s happening, and how they feel about it too. These ‘setting up for success’ conversations will also reveal some practical skills that your child will need to learn so they can cope with the change, and even benefit from it.

If your child is starting Reception in September, you can download our free “Preparing for Primary School Workshop” which is packed with ideas for how you can set your child up for the best possible start in their new life at school in September!

In the workshop, we share how you can:
👶 Develop your child's confidence 

💬 Respond effectively to their feelings and worries about starting school 

🌈 Train them in practical and social skills to equip them for a smooth transition into Reception

Free Preparing for Primary School Workshop

Acknowledge, discuss and demonstrate adaptability

We’re all on an adaptability spectrum, so start wherever your child is. When you see them stretch themselves a little further, or handle an unfamiliar or unexpected situation a little more calmly, say something to them about what they did and why it was important. Our positive feedback does two important things – it teaches our children what adaptability (or indeed kindness, loyalty, bravery, and much more) looks and sounds like in real life, and it shows them that we value it.

And each time our best laid plans are changed, it’s a great opportunity to practice what we are preaching and teaching! Being a parent is a great way to re-invent and improve ourselves in so many ways …. Be aware of how you respond in these moments. Do you complain and panic? Or are you able to stay relatively calm and take a more optimistic approach with “This is so annoying and I wish it hadn’t happened, we’re going to have to find another way”.

We wish you a great summer – and hope there are many expected pleasures and maybe some bonus unexpected opportunities that you can all enjoy!