Walk the Talk: Steps to Smooth Transitions
A mom was in the doctor's office with her two young children. After their treatment, the children wanted to go down the hall to play in the children's area and the mom said, "You may go play for five minutes and then we have to go because I have errands to do before we go home."
The children went off to play and the mom began to talk with other parents in the office. After about ten minutes she called to her children. "Almost time to go, okay?" The children continued to play and the mom continued to talk.
After another ten minutes she went to the children and told them it was time to leave. Her children were fully engaged in Lego play and said, "No, we have to finish this castle we’re making." "Okay” Mom replied with an exasperated sigh, ”Five more minutes and then we really need to go because I have to get my errands done.”
Then mom began another conversation with a person in the office. After a while, mom called for the children and they did not come. She went to the play area and was met with protests and resistance. She became very frustrated in trying to move them out of the office and it was a great struggle for all of them to leave the office .
Transitions can be difficult to navigate. Here are some tried and true tips to help you and your children find a more peaceful way through these waters of change at home and when you are out and about:
Be prepared ~ Be sure to have whatever you need to have ready before you prepare the child. If you're leaving the house, have your coat, your keys, your phone, water, a snack, whatever you need to bring along, have it prepared. This way you can give your complete attention to helping the child through the transition.
Allow plenty of time ~ Transitions with children can take much longer with variables: baby needs a diaper change, a bowel movement, or a drink of milk spilled on the clothes, or the dog gets let out by mistake. With children 5 and under, my rule of thumb is to allow for twice as long as the transition would take on a good day. When there is extra time, there will be something to do: puddles to jump or bees to watch or workers digging holes along the way.
Be willing to see it through ~ A tip for successful transition is this: only initiate a transition at that moment when you are willing and able to walk the child through it, right at the time of your request, kindly and gently, and committed to see it through. This way the child knows you mean what you say, can trust that when you say it is time to go-it is time to go and knows that you are paying attention and will follow through. Children relax into this kind of "being held." They feel safe and protected. The gift to us is that with this practice, children eventually fall in with our requests and come straight away. They know that there is no point in resisting, for they know that we will see it through.
Connect with your child ~ This is from Faith Collins, author of Joyful Toddlers and Preschoolers: “We can connect by giving a snuggle, being silly, or by turning what we’ve asked into a game. Basically, by doing anything that makes your child say, 'Again!' Of course, being silly and playful is often the last thing we feel like doing when we ask a child to do something and they refuse. And they often refuse right when we’re the most busy, overwhelmed, or running late—that’s WHY they feel disconnected.” Moms and Dads are often experts at multitasking and while that serves us to accomplish many tasks at once, it tends not to go so well with children. Children need to know that we are fully there, fully present and that we mean what we say, the first time. Children always know when we are not paying attention. When we multitask we cannot give the child the attention he needs in the moment at the time of the transition. If the child is not responding to a signal, an inviting song or gesture, then gently walk the child through the task. Imagination and play promotes connection. Tip toe, tip toe. That's the way the fairies go (on tiptoes) Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp. That's the way the giants stomp (stomping). Children are so taken with walking in tip toe and stomping that they come right along.
Play it through ~ If your child is playing with toys, then we can help play the toys away by directing the play towards its end. "Time for baby's nap, let's tuck her in." "The horse needs to go to the barn, let's gallop him in." "Time to toss the balls in the basket."
To do ~ Gives the child something "to do" rather than tell the child to stop doing what she's doing. In this way the child is able to play through the transition and is not abruptly taken from her play. She is able to play through to the next thing and remain in a state of play, less abrupt, less jarring, more harmonious, even easy.
Make it physical ~ When it's time to move from one place to another try singing an action song. "Hop like bunny, hop, hop, hop." "Fly like a birdie, fly, fly, fly.” And the children will hop or fly along.
Transitions are tricky - there’s no denying it. Some days will be more difficult than others. But when you take these steps to connect with your children , smoother easier transitions will happen. You’ve got this!