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Tips to Help Children to Manage Transitions

Cooler temperatures have finally arrived after a September where summer seemed to never end. The leaves have started to turn and the vibrant red of the Sumac and Burning Bushes have emerged. Change is in the air. As this seasonal transition occurs, our thoughts often wander to personal transitions. Change is never easy for adults, let alone children and transitioning from one activity to another can be a challenge. Change, even when moving to doing something fun, can be an ordeal for children, especially young ones.

Carizon’s Community Services team has these suggestions to help parents help their young children to manage transitions:

  • Plan well ahead for shifting gears. If you are running around at the last minute, chances are that your child will pick up on your mood.
  • Let your child know well in advance that a transition is coming. The beginning of the day is a good time for a brief review of the whole day’s events. As activities change during the day, give your child adequate notice to finish off one activity and move to the next.
  • Use “anchor” points, such as meal times or other predictable and regularly occurring daily activities, to review what is occurring the rest of the day.
  • For activities that require quick transitions at a specific time, let your child help you set a minute timer. When the timer goes off, you will both know it is time to move to the next activity.
  • If your child has difficulty leaving an activity in favour of a new one, when possible, let he/she bring part or all of the activity along. For example, a child that does not want to stop playing with their toy dinosaurs when it’s time for the family bike ride can be encouraged to pack the smaller dinosaurs in a back pack and take them along for the ride.
  • For transitions involving many steps, develop a written list with your child that he/she can use to follow and check off. For children that cannot yet read, cut out or draw pictures of each step to substitute for words.
  • For significant events or transitions, like a sleep-over away from home, start getting ready for the transition weeks in advance. Preparation should include: marking the important date on the calendar and making a daily activity of crossing off each day leading to the event, reviewing information about the event together, preparing a packing or preparation list, and then closer to the event, packing together or taking care of last minute preparations for the event.
  • For children making a major transition, such as moving to a new home or school, have the child choose a picture, photograph and/or favorite belonging to personally move to the new setting. Taking along an item belonging to a loved one, such as a parent’s wrist watch or a family photograph can also help in very difficult transitions that the parent cannot be part of.
  • Don’t be tempted to try and “sneak out” of a difficult transition by not telling your child about an event until the last minute. Facing up to the event together, in advance, develops trust as well as promotes smoother transitions in the long run.
  • Remember that the basic key to any successful transition is to allow time for good-byes to the old, as well as time for hellos to the new. The bigger the transition, the more time needed!