Transitions can be real toughies. What seems like a simple task, can turn into a major breakdown, tantrum, and overwhelming experience. Who knew putting your blocks away and coming to eat dinner could be such an ordeal!
Why Are Transitions So Difficult For Some Children?
Transitions are not always easy for your kids, even adults can struggle with transitions. Typically transitions can cause kids to resist, put up a fight, dig their heels in or completely melt down. The main reason kids begin to develop this patterning to resist transitions is due to the fact that the majority of transitions are asking them to stop doing an activity of choice/want and move to something that needs to be done. Do these statements seem unfair?
“Johnny, can you please turn off the TV and come have your dinner?”
“Marie, can you please tidy up your toys and get your shoes on for school?”
No, not really. These scenarios are common situations that all parents go through daily. We need our kids to stop doing an activity of choice to move to an area of need. When your child feels rushed, disturbed, or interrupted abruptly they begin to lash out and find their sense of power. Kids with emotional and developmental issues can struggle even more with transitions. It’s important to know your child and what they can handle.
How Can Parents Help Ease Transition Meltdowns?
As you work your way through daily transitions it’s important to be fair and consistent. When you treat your kids fairly, they won’t feel overpowered or feel the need to over-react. When you set your kids up for success in a fair way, they will sense you as a support system, rather then the enemy trying to ruin all their fun. I like to offer my kids a warning when time is approaching to stop their activity and transition. A fair warning, gives them a chance to find a good stopping point in whatever it is they’re working on.
“Johnny, we need to eat dinner in 5 minutes. Can you please turn off the TV at the next commercial?”
“Marie, can you please start tidying up when the timer goes off in 5 minutes?”
Giving your kids a sense of control will help them calm down. Helping your kids work through transitions with tools and support will help decrease the meltdowns and help increase the cooperation.
Tools To Help Create Smooth Transitions
Timers! I can’t say enough positive things about timers. Being a teacher and now a parent, I have been using timers as a tool with kids for over 15 years. Timers are a great visual and audio cue to help kids understand the meaning of time. Often time 5 minutes feels like 1 second to your child and therefore, when you come back in after the warning they begin to resist. The key is to use tools that are concrete and take some of the pressure off of you. As soon as you teach your kids about the timer, the timer becomes the boss. Once the timer goes off with a fair warning in advance, there’s no reason to argue, debate or discuss the situation further with your child. Here, at this moment, is where you learn the power of calmly walking away.
Follow Through And Consistency
These two things are the key to all things parenting. Whether we are discussing transitions, boundaries, bedtime routines and more, they ALL need follow through and consistency. Without these two things, your kids will begin to learn that their tantrums, excellent debating skills, and begging works. This now causes the transitions, bedtime routines, rules, and so on to all be pushed, haggled and torn. The boundaries begin to loosen and fade and at the same time your child’s behavior worsens and escalates. Transitions will become more difficult if you allow your child to debate the situation. They start to realize that they can lengthen the bedtime books, play longer at the park, continue playing blocks or watching TV. They learn that by pushing and resisting they get more of the “want” activity and avoid the transition to get to the “need.”
There are many positive solutions to help you learn to follow through and become more consistent without all the battles. It’s important to make small changes that help your child “feel good” in order to encourage them to “do well.” That’s your ultimate goal as parents and trust me when I say, this can be done. Read what other parents have to say!
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