Stress-Free Transitions in Your Child’s Day

Picture it: You’ve gotten your child’s lunch packed and your bag ready to go, and you cheerfully say, “Okay, time to go!” — and maybe you repeat yourself two or three times — then suddenly you find your child melting down on the floor because he doesn’t want to put on his shoes. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, and sometimes it’s a factor of transitions. A transition in the day is anytime your child has to change from one activity or place to another, and these points in the day can be a challenge for a lot of kids. Some children struggle with almost every transition, others can become overwhelmed when there are a lot of transitions in one day. Read on to learn about how to make daily transitions easier for you and your child.

Create margin in your day.

If you need to be in the car at 8:20, then start that process at 8:10 – so that you are not rushing your child. Give them plenty of time to locate their shoes and put them on, find their coat, grab their backpack, whatever they need. Teach them how to think through everything they need: say aloud your list or have a visual checklist by the door for your child to follow. “Do I have my lunch, coat, shoes? Etc…”

Give plenty of heads up.

If your child struggles to transition from one activity to another, consider using a timer that you set 2 minutes before the time you have to shift to the next activity – so that they have an auditory prompt that is not just your voice. It takes some of the emotional conflict away, because the timer is saying that it’s time to move on and not you, the mom who can be ignored or argued with. Additionally, most children are more compliant when they have been told what is coming next and what to expect. Consider breaking tasks down into smaller pieces. Rather than just saying “Time to clean up all the toys!” try “It’s time to put the blocks away. Shall we start with the blue ones or green ones?”

Keep predictable expectations.

If brushing their teeth or cleaning the toys or putting their shoes on is a required step, then expect that to be done consistently so that children have clear expectations. Consistency makes for smoother transitions. But – consider whether the task you are asking your child to do is reasonable and age-appropriate before insisting on compliance. Then make the plan and stick to it.

Keep Calm and carry on!

Our emotional state is catching. Keep calm. Try to prevent yourself from raising your voice. Keep your voice calm and use words that are easy to follow. “It’s time to put the blocks away and say goodbye to our friend. We are leaving in ten minutes.” Even if your child begins to get frustrated, you must remain calm and consistent.

What if it all went wrong today?

So, as parents we have bad days too. Sometimes we mess up. Admit, if necessary, where you have had unrealistic expectations of your child. Maybe as a parent we didn’t leave enough time between activities and our child felt rushed. Ask for forgiveness. Have a big hug and then consider how we might do it better next time. Create further visual supports of your day’s routines if needed. Consider a visual schedule or a timer that support this difficult part of your day. You know your child best and what pushes their buttons. Give them the support they need. Set them up for success!

You can’t avoid every transition in a day, and kids need to learn how to cope with the rhythms of life. Sometimes it’s easy to get annoyed when you’ve told your child seven times that it’s time to get shoes on so you can be on your way – you are only human, just like your kids. With time and consistency, your child will learn how to better mentally and emotionally prepare him or herself for the ending of playdates, time to get in the car, getting in and out of the grocery store, all those little transitions in the day. Remember that as adults, we’ve learned to handle those for the most part – our young children are still developing those skills. Keep working on it – your transitions will get easier as your children grow. It will pay off!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”- Jeremiah 29:11

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