How can I help my kid deal with change?
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About Change, David Kim. It has been edited for clarity.
What does it mean to go through a change?
I think for me, what change is when something becomes different. So for example, let's say, I am five years old and all of a sudden I'm becoming stronger or I'm becoming taller or weaker; whatever that may be, we call that a change: when something becomes different than where it was in the past.
Change. What a huge topic.
A lot of times we think that change is something that we make to happen, but a lot of times actually change is something that happens to us. It's something that's done unto us. And in life, you grow older when you become five to six, six to seven, you'll see that many of the changes are actually out of our hands. And we are navigating, we're journeying to experience how to interact with various changes that come really outside our world.
So let’s start at the beginning of this book, but also at the beginning of David’s life. Or, at least, near the beginning.
This is the book that I wish I had navigating change. And I wrote it for my ten-year-old self, moving from Korea to New York City. And if there was a resource for me or my parents... And my parents, they wanted to help me, but they didn't have any resources during the early nineties to help me work through some of these things about feelings and about different circumstances that are changing.
And so I wrote it for my ten-year-old self.
There’s no guidebook on change. Maybe the best guide is learning from others as they navigate change or reflecting back on the changes you’ve experienced already.
I’ve moved over 22 times in my life. And so that's a lot of changes. A lot of new neighbors, friends, schools,cities. And in my book, I particularly talk about moving from South Korea, Seoul to New York City. And so even [the] change of learning a new language, eating new food, everything, it was such a fun and interesting experience.
Moving 22 times is a lot! I was curious if that’s a kind of change you could ever get used to. So I asked David.
I have found that every time I move, I am both excited and sad. I am excited for a new adventure ahead, meeting new friends, coworkers, neighbors, and new restaurants and food that may come with it. I'm a big foodie. I love food. But also I've also seen that every time I moved, that I'm sad because I am letting go of some of the important things; especially relationships that I may not see for a while and I don't know how long that may be.
We put so much of ourselves into relationships, so when you move to someplace new, at least in my experience, it’s hard not to feel like you’re leaving a part of yourself behind.
But at the same time, starting someplace new can come with its own challenges. Ones that can make us question ourselves or the things we love.
Yeah, I remember, going back to when I was 10, the first kind of experience that I had bringing my Korean food into school is that I was ashamed of the particular smell. And here’s the interesting thing: I didn't know it smelled until I moved to New York and I saw that, “Oh, it is different. It is unique. Oh, maybe people then therefore, because it's different, it's something wrong. That there's something wrong with my food. That it's something that is something not welcomed into the school.”
And so navigating that was a little bit difficult and experiencing that change was particularly hard for me.
And so therefore I started to eat a lot of American food to almost cover and hide my Korean food. And yeah, I ended up really enjoying the pizza and I was in New York City. So “New York City bagels, New York City pizza... they're the best!” But at the same time I also missed my Korean food.
So I was trying to navigate all of that.
Listeners, I’m thinking about where you are in that story that David just shared. Have you moved with your family before? Or have you been in a space where people were questioning the food you ate? Or the language you spoke? Or the way you dressed? Or just how you showed up in a space?
How does going through change make you feel?
I think it's different for every person in this world. But for me, I would say uncomfortable is my first feeling that I get because we talked about how change is something that becomes different. And so it's not something that I'm used to. And a lot of things that we're used to, we feel comfortable around it. And so the feeling that I get is, “Oh, I feel uncomfortable.”
Now, because I'm uncomfortable, that can lead to a little bit of fear, anxiety. I may be afraid. I may be just scared or nervous. Or that uncomfortableness may kind of lead me to be curious and see, “Ooh, I wonder what that is?” And “I want to explore that.” And maybe there's something fun or adventurous ahead.
And so those are kind of the things that I feel.
So, here’s a funny thing. Change happens to everyone. Literally everyone. And yet, many of us or maybe even most of us resist change. We try to avoid it. That habit is actually something that connects a lot of us: our resistance to change.
I think we resist change because we as human beings like to be comfortable. And when things get slightly uncomfortable, we feel that we need to fight it off or try to make sure that that doesn't come into our territory. And so by nature, in order for us to survive and be comfortable and be okay, I think we just resist change naturally.
Resisting change can look like a lot of different things, but for David (and me, too) it sounds like distraction was a strategy he turned to a lot.
Growing up, I didn't know at that time, but I watched a lot of movies, played a lot of video games. I'm not saying those are bad, but I was going through a lot of change and I was using that to make myself feel better about all the changes that I was going through.
But now that I am growing and learning more about how to process it well, I look for a close friend who is a good listener. And I talk to him about some of the things that I am feeling about this particular change and the way he would respond, in care and in empathy and support, that has helped me a lot in my journey.
I want to move us, listeners, to talking about what we all can do to help others who are going through a change. But I think it’s important to remind you and to remind myself of how necessary it is that we are able to see one another through the changes others are going through, even and especially if it is not something we have gone through ourselves.
So as I shared, I am a Korean American, and so in the last few weeks, few months, our Asian American community has been hurting a lot due to increase of violence. And one of the ways that my friends have helped me in that journey, even now, they said, “David, we have heard about these news that's happening around the country.” And they just said, this: “What can I do to help you?”
And that question alone, even though I didn't have particular answers to that at that moment, felt the world to me. I felt seen, I felt supported and you know, down the road, I had few things that, I did say, but at that moment, even that question alone was an incredible source of encouragement and support.
No matter what change you’re going through, I hope that when you get to the other side you find there are friends there to welcome you with care, and empathy, and support, just as David said.
What seems like a small change to one may be a big change for another. So let's not judge anyone and let each individual work through that change on their own time, and at their own pace, because I think we all approach it differently.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week, we spoke with David Kim, the author of A Kids Book About Change.