Are Transitions Hard for Your Little One? Here are a few tips to try!
+Give 1-2 time warnings before the end of their current activity (i.e. “You have 5 minutes of TV left”)
When kids are given a heads up that a change is coming, they feel much more prepared than when they are caught by surprise. Knowing they have some time to decide what they want to accomplish before moving on to the next part of their day can help decrease anxiety or frustration, especially when moving from a desired activity to a less preferred one.
+Let them know what’s coming next (i.e. “After this episode is over, you’ll get ready for bed”)
When kids know what they’re moving on to, it soothes anxiety of the unknown that may otherwise have surfaced. Combining this tip with the previous one sets clear expectations and provides a sense of security and predictability.
+If appropriate, give them choices (i.e. “It’s almost time for bed. Do you want 5 or 10 more minutes of your show?” or “When we get ready for bed, do you want to take a bath first or have story time first?)
Kids naturally strive for a sense of independence and control over their lives, especially when so much of their daily routine is set for them. Allow them to have some say in how a transition goes, while providing options that are acceptable to you as their caregiver. Even a seemingly small opportunity to make their own decision can make a big difference to a child.
+What if they still don’t want to listen to me/they refuse to leave what they’re doing?
This can be totally normal and expected at times; kids will test your boundaries to see if you really mean what you say. In this case, it’s important to validate their emotions while still holding firm to the expectation. Even when kids know they don’t have control over the situation, they want to know that their words matter to you. If you notice they’re getting upset, acknowledging that “You’re really frustrated/annoyed/angry/etc. that you have to ___.” can help them feel understood. They may still stomp or drag their feet in protest while moving on, but they will also know that their feelings are accepted and their voice is heard. This makes all the difference in building their emotional awareness and communication skills.