Most children are having to navigate countless adjustments and transitions. Too often, it’s the little everyday changes that spark big behaviors in kiddos- getting ready for breakfast, brushing teeth, putting clothes away, turning off the tablet, or going to get into the car.

In fact, behavioral outbursts and tantrums most frequently occur amidst a transition; whether it’s a new routine or a daily routine. This can be exhausting for parents!.

But, by helping kiddos learn to cope with the smaller, daily transitions, you’re preparing your kids to tolerate the larger transitions!

I’m Molly Monaghan, a child therapist at Kid Matters Counseling.

And here are my three tips for helping your child manage day-to-day transitions.

Tip #1- Track the time and watch the behavior

The first tip is getting curious, almost as if you zoom out to a birds’ eye view of the situation. Get curious about the time of day that behaviors most likely occur, the type of transition, and activities being transitioned to or from.

Maybe you’ll find that there is a pattern- the transition off of technology, or the transition to come sit down for homework, or maybe it’s getting ready for bed. By learning the pattern, you can then start to ask yourself why this particular transition might be so difficult for your child.

Here’s a practical tip: Make a 7-day calendar and put it on the refrigerator. Make notes of each day when your child might struggle with a daily transition to a routine (like eating breakfast, putting on clothes, brushing teeth, bedtime etc.)

I’ve included a link below this video for a free tracking calendar. I use it with my clients here at Kid Matters Counseling.

Tip #2- Make the unknown known

Transitions are full of uncertainty, and what we know about the brain is that it often registers the unknown as threatening. That’s why, with a little help from parents, kids can benefit from making the unknown known. An example of this is giving prompts with an indication of how much time is remaining, and an activity that can help the child prepare for the adjustment.

For example, try saying to your child…

  • “In 30 minutes we are going to get into the car to go to the store”
  • “In 20 minutes we are going to get into the car to go to the store, can you pick out your favorite toy to bring with?”
  • “In 10 minutes we are going to get into the car, let’s find your shoes and jacket”
  • “In 5 minutes we are going to get into the car, start thinking about what song we can listen to!”

Here’s a practical tip: Make a visual schedule or a visual “map” of what is to come during the transition (first we put on shoes and hat, then we walk to the car, we’ll drive to this store, then we’ll get milk, eggs, etc).

Draw out a map or comic strip together of what to expect.

This strategy can work for everyday transitions such as getting ready for school, sitting down for dinner, preparing for bed; and even bigger transitions like a doctor’s appointment or getting ready for a new family member, when the uncertainty might be a bit greater.

Tip #3- Regulate while you transition.

The third tip provides you with a few options for adding regulation strategies into the transition itself. If your child has a hard time with transitions, it’s helpful to use both language and an experience or task. Once you prepare your child for a change, it can be helpful to give their body a way to regulate during the change. This might mean paying attention to their five senses.

Here’s a practical tip: As you walk toward the bathroom to brush teeth before bed, you play a game of I-Spy, or ask your child to notice 3 green items. Maybe you hum or clap a tune and see if they can repeat it, then switch roles!

Another great way to get the body moving is to come up with some fun and active ways to move from one place to another- for example, “Let’s stomp our feet when we walk to the kitchen for dinner! Let’s walk only on our tip toes, now only on our heels, let’s slide our feet without lifting them or swing our arms and legs like monkeys, I wonder if you can do jumping jacks while you put on your jacket!”

I know parents and children had to experience several transitions and disruptions in routines.

If your child is experiencing anxiety and is displaying behavioral concerns around transitions, and you would like extra support for them and how you can confidently parent them through the routines, reach out to us today. We’re here to help.

If you could use extra support in helping your child transition, please reach out to us today.

Don’t want to read? Watch the 3 tips video!

To download the free tracking calendar click here

Molly Monaghan

Molly Monaghan

Child Therapist | LPC

My goal is to walk alongside you as we uncover ways to root yourself in your own wisdom as a caregiver, and help your child blossom into their full potential.

We help anxious kids and frustrated parents. We serve Hinsdale & the Western Suburbs of Chicago.

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