I was sitting and talking this week with a colleague who is at a point of change in his life – a change in career coinciding with a change of residence. My initial take on this included ideas of progress, fresh challenges, new opportunities ... His dominant feeling right now? “Scared!"
Not scared in his head. He knows what he is doing and has a good idea of where he wants to go. He has just completed a cycle in his life and has planned a route ahead which in all respects seems sensible and secure. But scared, nevertheless, and at a rather deeper level. Moving away from what has been home and neighbourhood for several years ... to an unknown place where he must start all over again in managing and building relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Moving away from a cultural base where he knows all the places and resources which match his lifestyle ... to having to draw new maps and find new tracks. Moving away from a work pattern in which he feels abreast of the thinking and competent in practice ... to a whole set of new tasks to understand and new roles to perform, within a new team of co-workers and leaders ... just scared.
Both of us being in the same field, our thoughts moved naturally to the young people and families we work with, to how their lives become disrupted, how their futures are suddenly changed and uncertain, how new circumstances and expectations confront them. And – to be more honest with ourselves – it is often we who initiate the changes and moves – and how often these might be avoided.
There are principles which operate in our work with children, youth and families – principles like minimal intervention, continuity, permanence, family-centredness, participation, empowerment, diversion from bureaucratic process, etc. In all of these principles we say that we want to avoid unnecessary and disruptive change and anxiety in the lives of our clients. Yet probably most of us have, in the past week or two in our practice, worked with a youngster or a parent caught up in a significant move or change.
Two things. 1. If our adult colleague (like most of us) can acknowledge feeling scared in the face of some relatively routine transitions in his domestic and professional life, how much more distressing must critical change be for those whose lives are already uncertain and desperate? And 2. Since this time of the year is one of change and movement for many of our service and academic programs, let's store away some of our own feelings of apprehension and doubt for later retrieval – fodder for greater empathy when we next contribute to decisions about other people’s lives.