As adults, we know what life is like – the ups and downs, the unpredictability, the change, the needing to do things you don’t really want to do. We get it, and sometimes still struggle with it. As children, your little ones are figuring this all out and it can be tough. Every day, and every new experience is filled with transitions that are new and challenging for your little one. To help guide your child through these transitions, consider some of the following tips, in hopes to make things easier for everyone involved.
Have A Discussion
The most important way to help your little one through some of life’s toughest transitions is to talk about it. Prepare them for what this means, and discuss how they feel about it. Communication is important in any relationship, and this includes your relationship with your child. If your little one is transitioning to a new school at the end of the year, talk about what this entails, what will be different from their old school vs. what will be new. Maybe your child has a hard time with daily transitions, like when it is time to clean up their toys for dinner, have a discussion about it and validate their feelings.
Your child understands much more than you might give them credit for, talk with them and allow your little one the opportunity to be heard. Discuss their feelings, why they feel this way and how you can help with this particular transition in the future.
Oftentimes, if you find your child is having a tough time with a particular transition – other children are also struggling with this same transition. Therefore, there is almost always a book published about the topic. Books are a great way for your child to relate to a character who is going through a similar situation. You can find a list of Books To Read To Your Toddler Before Life’s Big Events here.
Books are valuable because of what your child sees other children doing, they are a visual representation of the situation allowing your child the chance to observe what is happening and how to respond. Along these same lines, a visual schedule can be a very useful tool if your child is struggling with a particular transition. Showing your little one a picture of what events, or activities, they can expect during the day/morning/afternoon might help set your child up for success.
These visual schedules can be as in depth or as simple as you need them to be. If you need to lay out the entire day for your little one to follow, by all means do that. If your little one just struggles in the afternoons, and you only need to visually represent a small snippet of your day you can do that too. The purpose of these schedules is to show your child what to expect during the day, or even during a specific activity, to hopefully reduce unwanted behaviors during those transition periods.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you have talked about these transitions or events, maybe even looked at books and created an individualized visual representation of what to expect – practice it. Practice having your child pick out their own clothes and come down for breakfast, or practice walking to the bus stop together. It may take a thousand tries, and practice may never make perfect (because come on now, who is ever truly perfect) but practice will make progress.
The first few times you practice a specific transition with your child, they may need you to (possibly literally) hold their hand every step of the way. Your little one may rely on those physical or verbal cues from you on what to do next. Continue to practice, and reduce your role in those transitions slowly, so eventually your child gets the hang of it.
Implement a Reward System
This particular piece of advice is not for everyone, and certainly not for every transition. Think about implementing a sticker chart, have your child earn 3, 5, 10 stickers (however many you think is appropriate for your little one) before receiving a reward. There is no need to reward for every successful transition, unless you think your child needs that positive reinforcement consistently at the beginning.
For example, if you want your child to transition into their bedtime routine more independently- maybe set up a sticker chart, and for every night they clean up their toys, get into pajamas and brush their teeth successfully, they earn a sticker. Again, a reward system might not work for every family, or even every situation, so consider what transition your child needs help with and take it from there.
New situations or environments may overwhelm you as an adult, so most likely they do the same for your little one. Take bits and pieces of these tips and implement them into your home, as you help your child navigate some of life’s transitions and challenges. Who knows, maybe there is something else entirely that works for your child, like singing a song before bed, or carrying a comfort object to the car before school. The reality of it is, life will always be unpredictable and at times chaotic, so providing your child with tools now to help them navigate these transitions in the future will be a huge help.