Kate Moore, Deputy Head of Junior School
Change is one of life’s certainties. In the words of Pema Chodron, “that nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent … is the ordinary state of affairs.” That being said, change is by no means easy and we as humans, have a tendency to fear change and consequently to be resistant to it.
So why are we resistant to change? While change can be an incredibly positive and propelling experience, our fear and our resistance to it tends to stem from the uncertainty it brings. As humans, throughout evolution we have been driven to seek a safe, secure and stable environment. Impending change tends to evoke a fear in us that we will lose that safety and security, even if that is not likely to be the case. The process of change can leave us feeling untethered and groundless and sitting with that discomfort can really challenge us for a period of time until we find a firmer footing.
Why is it important to prepare your daughter for change?
While we all have a tendency to be fearful of change, our daughters are of a generation where they are often not used to having to sit with uncertainty thanks to the immediate access to answers and solutions online. The ability to adapt to life’s inevitable changes is one of the most valuable skills your daughter can learn, particularly given the rapid pace of change that is common to most 21st century jobs. Being open to change takes courage and courage is one of those attributes that tends to be misunderstood. Ask a student what courage is and they tend to equate it to not being afraid, however, as we know, courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. The more opportunities your daughter has to exercise courage, the better she will cope with what comes her way in life.
How you can support your daughter through change
The transition to high school can cause stress and challenge due to a number of factors including new and unfamiliar teachers and students, and multiple sets of behavioural and classroom rules and expectations.  Thankfully, there is much you can do to support your daughter prior to and during this transition.
- Talk to your daughter about what is making her feel worried or anxious and validate these feelings. Avoid telling your daughter not to worry and that she will be fine. This can leave her feeling that her worries are being dismissed rather than heard.
- Normalise the feeling of trepidation by sharing a time when you have been anxious about change such as taking on a new job.
- Take some time to make a list with your daughter about all the positives of moving into high school. As feelings tend to be mixed during times of change, a focus on the positive and exciting aspects can go a long way towards smoothing transition.
- As change can make your daughter feel out of control, this is a good time to reassure their sense of agency by giving them a voice in decisions, even small ones.
- Do what you can to allay specific concerns. For example, if the worry is the added workload, spend some time with your daughter organising a homework and study routine or even improving her study area in the home.
- Supporting your daughter to feel as prepared as possible for the start of the year will reduce anxiety. This could include purchasing supplies, reading information from the school together or talking about who your daughter’s tutor is. Knowing who the point of contact will be at school helps your daughter know that she has someone to reach out to.
- When school starts, it is helpful if you or another trusted adult can be there for your daughter for the first few weeks to help support the transition.
- Maintaining routines (such as meals and sleep times) during the transition is also helpful and helps bring a sense of normality to the change. This could also be a time to create new rituals together that mark this transition.
- Remember that with any transition there will be an adjustment period. Again, it is important to normalise that and to expect some ups and downs during this time.
All in all, while transition can bring some anxiety and challenge, these experiences provide an opportunity to foster independence and build self-efficacy. Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult emphasises the importance of coping with change: “humans need some form of weathering in order to survive the larger challenges life will throw our way”. Your daughter will be well equipped to cope with your support.
Kate is the Deputy Head of Junior School at Kambala. She in responsible for the operations of the Junior School campus and oversees the pastoral care of students.
1 CHODRON, P. The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. ed. Shambhala Publications. 2002.
2 AKOS, P. Student Perceptions of Transition. ed. ASCA. 2002.
3 LYTHCOTT-HAIMS, J. How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. ed. Henry Holt and Co. 2019.