A 6 year-old’s guide to change

17 December

David, the first of our two adopted sons, came into our house in April of 2007. David is a high volume and high emotion child who could probably power a small Chinese village with his energy. He bounces off the walls with glee at the smallest accomplishments and explodes with frustration if he can’t get his way.

While David has been with us six years, we only began the adoption process recently. This has meant that while he’s in every way part of our family, his legal status has been as a foster child. The only real impact he has noticed is his inability to travel internationally to visit his aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents in the Philippines and North America. David knows that the key to overseas travel is a passport and he’s spent hours making one for himself and his teddy bear, declaring at one point that the teddy’s passport is ready and his isn’t good enough.

Since kicking off the adoption process, we have documented everything about our family from our health to bank accounts and criminal records (or lack thereof). The next step was to assemble David’s dossier which includes photos, descriptions of his daily life, and a health check. David despises health checks and like all of our children hates most to have his blood drawn for any test.

As I took him to the hospital on the day of his check, I did my best to cue him up for the doctor’s questions, CT scans, and blood tests. I made sure he understood that he (and I) needed to go through some pain to get to the ultimate prize, a passport. I was surprised at how he reassured me with a warm “it’s ok daddy, I’ll be fine.”

And he was more than fine. My wife had given him a bad of candy and as I filled out paperwork, he went to the other kids in the hospital and handed out gifts, creating a connection to his social environment. Halfway through the checkup, I had to step away and asked his permission. Once again he reassured me with a kiss and a wave goodbye as he went off to his blood test with the nurse. The report I got back was that his cooperative, thoughtful attitude continued to the end. This was a different child than the one I had been dealing with for the last six years!

So, what happened? How could a six year old find joy in the very things he hated? First, David rejected his current situation (can’t travel) as not being what he wanted. He then created clear physical representations of his future state in passports for him and his teddy bear. He made sure to connect to his community along the way (other kids at the hospital). And finally, he contextualized his challenges within his bigger goal of travel. This somehow changed a meaningless and painful exercise into an experience full of community, accomplishment, and hope. Not bad for a 6 year old and a good lesson for the rest of us dealing with change in our organizations, teams, and personal lives.

Comments are closed.

Liked this article?
You might also want to take a look at the ones below.

No related photos.