I want to tell you about Callum. A 12-year old Wildheart who was going to spend all his summer holidays worrying. He was about to start his new secondary school and was flooded with fear.

This is such a gigantic leap for many Wildhearts. Not because there is anything lacking in them, but because the system becomes less nurturing and more demanding.

For Wildhearts, this is particularly tough because:

• they’re super sensitive to their environment and they unconsciously sense this pressure, the unspoken expectations and the anticipatory anxiety that’s in the air.
• they find transitions (moving from one event, place or person) to another overwhelming.
• they don’t like to be rushed, they need time to FEEL their way to the new.
• they like routines as they provide comfort, so starting a new one forces them out of their comfort zone.
• they need to feel safe before they can learn and uncertainty and change can feel very unsafe (Understandably, I’ve seen an increase in this since COVID).
• they’re sad about leaving their old school life behind, and need to work through those feelings before they can begin again.

Callum’s Mum was so frustrated

When I spoke to Callum’s Mum, she was exhausted because no amount of reassurance would quell his anxiety:

‘I keep telling him it will be okay and answering all his questions, but he’s still worried and won’t stop talking about it. He’s not sleeping either.’

They had conflicting goals

She wanted to stop the anxiety, so he could start school feeling confident. So she reassured him by answering all his questions, hoping the anxiety would go away.

He wanted to process his feelings of overwhelm, fear, sadness and anxiety which he was afraid of because he could make no sense of them. He thought something was terribly wrong and this made it worse.

Learning to be with our fear and face it is a skill that prepares us, not just for changing schools, but for life. It’s empowering to have the tools to deal with change and to be able to summon up courage even when you are afraid.

The truth is …

Life is fraught with uncertainty and change. We can never make the uncertain certain. Our anxious minds will never have enough information to stop the anxious feelings and worried thoughts. What we can do is give young Wildhearts the tools to prepare them for what lies ahead and to show them that they are more than capable of adjusting to the new on their terms.

Here’s 12 year old Callum.

He is not going to the local comprehensive with all his friends, but starting a fresh at a school with a strong focus on creativity and more practical ways to learn. It’s imperative that the school’s values are aligned with what is important to your child for there to be chance of success.

What is important to the child?
What are their specific needs – mental, emotional & physical so they can thrive at school?

Callum is afraid that he will not make new friends. He lacks confidence in his likeability. He is devastated that he is leaving behind familiar faces he sees every day. He worries his new school won’t be as much fun. This is what he values and is important to him – friends and fun. Many children tell me this. They fear as the pressure mounts at secondary school, there will be no time for fun…. they ain’t wrong there!

As a coping strategy, he has started to fault find with the school. This gives him a semblance of control. Makes sense doesn’t it? If we make the problem outside of us, then it’s not something we have to deal with. Effectively though, we give our power away because we’re relying on other things, other people, other situations to change, instead of making those changes internally.

Callum’s criticisms are a manifestation of his overwhelming feelings and he needs help with those. His Mum is resisting his criticisms which creates a power struggle between them.

‘I don’t like the food – we’ll make a packed lunch!’
‘I don’t know anybody – you’ll make friends easily!’
‘I don’t want to go there – yes you do, you’ll be fine!’

I made Callum a Truly Madly Smiley listening plan.

1. First off I suggested The Courage Chats which is a series of 10 episodes with a step-by-step guide to easing yourself out of your comfort zone and facing your fears.
2. Then I helped Callum process all his feelings around saying goodbye to the old and starting the new. He listened to Episode 76 – The One with the Feelings Fibs and Episode 77 – The One with the Feelings Workout.
3. I built up Callum’s confidence and helped him prepare for his new school. He listened to Ten Days of Smiley Self-Talk which focused on his mindset, managing his feelings and helping him muster up some self-belief.
4. Every night, at bedtime, I got him listening to one of the many relaxations to regulate his nervous system and dissolve his anxiety.

[*name of client changed to protect privacy]

Callum totally turned it around & was prepared for the change ahead!

Callum listened to Truly Madly Smiley for 3 months and during that time, his tummy aches had stopped and he was willing to go to the new school. He felt happier and more confident in himself because he understood the change process, what was expected of him, and that nothing was wrong here. His feelings were normal and valid. He also learned what his part was in this journey and how he could help himself. This is teaching responsibility and accountability which will stand him in good stead for any changes in his life.

I hope this is encouraging and inspiring for you to hear how children are making positive changes with Truly Madly Smiley.

Smiley x

PS If you want to feel empowered like Callum, and you’re not a Truly Madly Smiley Member yet, you’re so very welcome to join us here.

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