3 things children can teach us about managing change

Change can be traumatic.

Often we feel unable to cope and sometimes we may deny the need for it and seek to hold onto the past. There has been much written about the process of change and the phases that people often pass through as they move from one thing to another.

Many of us are called upon to initiate or manage change by designing and delivering training workshops – although this is futile if done in isolation.

I was reminded of this when looking through photographs we took during a family winter break last weekend.

There was one photo of my 10 year old daughter sat on the floor holding a fluffy toy dog in one arm and taking a photo with her phone with her free hand. It caught my imagination and offered some insight into how natural change is for children.

The items she holds in each hand represent the significant change she is going through as she leaves behind infancy and barrels headlong towards the tumultuous teenage years.

On one hand she is the child holding onto her fluffy toy dog.
On the other she is the growing girl, taking photos on her phone and texting her friends.

Just like her bedroom wall where Hannah Montana was demoted as JLS took the prime location above her bed, change is a constant. She has the abilty to hold conflicting items in tension – and it makes perfect sense for her.

  • Do adults find it as easy to make these transitions?
  • Can adults hold different things together in tension and be happy about it?

Here are a THREE lessons my 10 year old taught me about change.

Sometimes you don’t have to choose – you can have them both for a while: Adults often have a black or  white, it’s “one or the other” view of the world. It’s sometimes a world of absolutes. You are either a innocent child with your cuddly toy or you are a teenager-in-waiting with your phone glued to your fingers. This photo illustrates that a 10yr old can have both and be very happy living with both. As time goes on, I’m sure the fluffy dog will be left at home more often until finally he becomes a permanent fixture in the bedroom. Until then, it’s perfectly natural to have both – you don’t have to lose one to have the other.

Time can be a gradient not a switch: Change is so natural for children because it happens gradually over time. Separation trauma is avoided because it happens almost without notice. Slowly the new thing takes priority over the existing thing and over time the existing thing fades into the past. It’s a world of evolution not revolution. Often as adults we force change too quickly and do not take the time available to us.

External forces can assist you: Boys (at least the boys in my daughters class at school) don’t like fluffy dogs and they do have mobile phones too. This increases the transition from one set of behaviours to another. As these friendships begin to matter more and what others (especially boys) think become increasingly more important – the rate of change from ‘fluffy-child’ to ‘mobile-girl’ increases. Adults often get so focused on what they are losing that they fail to notice that others are going through the same thing too. Rather than harnessing the external factors to their advantage, many adults become too focused on their personal situation and fail to notice that there are external forces that could help.

Whilst this may be helpful for you on a personal level, consider how you can help your next group when you are supporting them though change.

Whether you are introducing a new process, training out a new product or helping your learners refine a skill – how can you help them make the change more natural?

  • Are you forcing your learners to make a choice that does not need to be made?
  • Do they have to let go of everything about the old before picking up the new?
  • Are you using all the available time or are you applying additional pressure by moving things quicker than you need to?
  • What external factors can you harness to support the change?
  • What can you do to counteract the isolation that people often feel when undergoing change?
shadow image by stuant63
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  1. Posted March 25, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I love this Ally.
    So true and it made me smile.
    I write about similar things too; drawing inspiration from family (especially my 6 year old daughter) and friends.
    Thank you for sharing

    PS. If you fancy reading my blog the address is below


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