YouthZone column: Embracing change opens doors to a positive future

Lori Mueller

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” H.P. Lovecraft

At times we look forward to different opportunities on our horizon and to a fresh way of doing things. There is a sense of adventure that can be invigorating when we leave the mundane and normal cycle of our lives.

New opportunities and new routines create new learning, expand our thinking and help us grow as a human being. However, when changes are not expected, we can feel uncomfortable and even terrified. And actually, even when we know changes are coming, we can feel both invigorated and terrified. Even positive change can create stress. Stress is our body’s way of reacting to change and it is completely normal.

Over the past year, many changes in our schools, communities and our country were out of our control. As we look back on last year, we can see the incredible learning and growth that happened because of the changes, but it still felt threatening and unsettling.

Why do we fear and resist change when we know that change has the potential to create growth and bring a world of possibilities? Recent research in neuroscience reaffirms we are creatures of habit. We thrive on certainty and predictability.

Over the past 45 years, YouthZone has served families by helping them manage change: change as their young kids grow into adolescents, change in family dynamics, and change in parenting styles. Our staff helps families find their unique possibilities in the midst of change. Our goal is for families to emerge from these challenges with an increased awareness and gratitude for who they are and for a future that is filled with hope.

Change in family dynamics, change in our environment and change with our relationships is inevitable, so here are some tips on how to embrace change in healthy and positive ways:

  • Simply acknowledge that things are changing. Once we acknowledge, we can let go of how things used to be and that creates the space to embrace what can happen next.
  • Confront your fears. Make a list of your fears and write down what you would do if that fear came to pass. Once you have it in black and white, you may realize that you can handle what is to come and that helps to alleviate emotional anxiety.
  • Identify your support team and be willing to ask for help. The opportunities for growth lie in our ability to explore our feelings with someone safe and trusted. Parents who model to their kids their ability to ask for help have kids who in turn will learn how to ask for help for themselves.
  • Staying positive and open. When we get into a state of fear, all learning is halted. Our anxiety can take over and negative thinking begins. Keep a list of all possible outcomes that may arise because of the change. “What you focus on, grows,” so focus on the possibilities. Ultimately, the possibilities may become a reality.
  • Take a proactive approach. Adopt an attitude of anticipation and excitement. Be part of the solution and avoid becoming a victim of the circumstance. The more control we keep, the less fear we will have. Being proactive means asking for help and seeking out groups that can help you can make a positive impact on the world. Give back to your community, reach out to others and find ways to engage outside of yourself.

Change adds flavor to our life. Without it, we stagnate and our world shrinks. With change, comes fresh ideas and growth.

If your family or teen is experiencing change and you would like to have support through that change, please give YouthZone a call at 970-945-9300. Our counselors and youth advocates can guide you through these new experiences and that can help alleviate fears.

Lori Mueller is the Executive Director for YouthZone and has been with the organization since 2006. She brings nearly 30 years of experience as a parent educator and family advocate. Lori earned her degree in Social Work, Criminal Justice Certified, from Colorado State University. Lori is also a certified parenting instructor.

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