Your kids are having so much fun at the park, but it’s almost dinnertime and you need to leave. What happens when they start whining, crying, and refusing to go? Sometimes transitioning from one activity to another is stressful for children. Having a plan will make those transitions less of a battle.
Four Easy Steps to Make Transitions Easier
1. Priming: Using Interactive Indicators
Priming means letting your child know “when” the transition will happen and does not have to be a set number of minutes. Using a physical timer is a great way to let your child understand that time is running out. However, some situations call for a simpler approach like interactive indicators. These include ending the activity after a number of turns on the slide, or after a certain chapter, or even by holding your fingers up so they can see that time is running out.
Explaining “What” the child should expect includes what will be happening next and behavioral expectations. To be effective and avoid confusion, the “What” must be clear and positive.
For example; “After you finish your next turn on the slide, it will be time to have dinner. When you’re done, we will say goodbye to your friends and head home.”
TOP TIP: When explaining your intentions, make sure your child understands what is going to happen next by asking them to repeat the steps.
The conversation might look like this:
Parent: How many more turns do you get? Child: Two more. Parent: That’s right. And then what are we going to do? Child: Turn off the iPad and put it on the shelf so we can eat dinner. Parent: Awesome, I am really proud of you! (Priming Tips)
Choices allow children to be in charge and develop their decision making. Waiting for things to fall apart makes for a chaotic situation, so you should alleviate stress by planning aheadso you are prepared when the transition begins.
Let’s face it, adults always have final say, so why not turn this on its head and let your child give it a go? Giving them a “forced choice” is giving them the option to do the next activity the way they want. For example, your child needs to sit down for dinner, which chair do they want to sit in?
TOP TIP: Sometimes choices can be boring. Adding fun words like “cool” or “silly” advertises the available options, “Do you want to use this cool blue pencil or the one with the silly monster on top?”
How often do you express how proud you are of your child? Praising every step of the transition, big or small, makes doing any task more fun. Initiate the first step of the transition by complimenting their behavior, “Great job for listening and coming back on time!” Praising choice-making through the transition also boosts their self-esteem, and when they get back in the car or put the toy away, “Thank you for clearing up the picnic blanket, I’m so proud of you!”
4. Follow Through
When the kids get fussy, keeping calm and confident will ensure your success in a smooth transition. One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to transitions is follow through. It’s a recipe for on-going failure if you don’t hold your own. Parents often fail by not following through on their transition rules. A great follow through helps your child learn that problem behaviors will not change the outcome of a transition. It also reminds them that you mean what you say, and there are always opportunities for fun when they follow directions.