Why all kids struggle with transitions
Jun 01, 2021
All kids struggle with transitions.
These can be the daily struggles of moving from the dinner table to the bath, or the bigger changes that impact our child's sense of security like a house move, daycare change, or the big one - welcoming a new baby into the family.
The struggle that kids have with transitions and change points happens for a for a variety of reasons, but know this:
It is so normal for it to be a daily battle getting kids into the car, out of the bath and all the rest. It is our children's job to struggle with these moments, the struggle is how they grow their brains. It is our job to be bigger, stronger, wise and kind - all the things they need to support them with transitions.
Tips for daily transitions.
We all know that feeling. It's time to get in the car and your child is really enjoying some LEGO. You know what is coming when you tell them to stop doing what they enjoy and get in the car..... As hard as this is for parents our job isn't to stop these feelings but to be there with our child when they do.
A few quick tips for assisting your child with transitions:
1. Warning your child
- Warn your child the change/transition moment is coming. Make sure they hear you because when they are playing they don't hear us.
- When you do this acknowledge them first: "hey.... you are having SOOOOO much fun on the swing aren't you? .....Soon it will be time to go. I'm setting a timer for five minutes and then we will need to get off the swing."
2. Transition time - get in low and close
- When it's time to go/get in the bath / get off the swing get in close tell your child what's happening. You need to believe you have everything you need to be the confident leader in this situation. Don't extend the timer. Stick to your word so they know you are at the wheel.
- If your child looks like they are going to struggle try giving two choices "yeah, you don't want to get off the swing, but it's time - do you want to bring the book or the toy in the car?" Or "I can see you really don't want to stop playing the ipad, but it's time to go, do you want to hold my hand or have me carry you to the car?"
- Don't stop the momentum of moving on from A to B - it's important you are still confident and in charge.
3. Welcome emotions
- Welcome the crying, anger, disappointment - transitions are hard! Tell your child you hear them, it's ok to be sad/unsure etc. "Yeah I hate stopping what I am enjoying too, I can see this is hard for you".
- Breathe - know it's not your job to make this better for your child or make it stop. It's your job to ride the wave of emotion and keep moving though next to your child as they process the big feelings, it's never easy for us but it makes such a difference for our child when we do.
What about the bigger transitions - like a new sibling?
When it comes to bigger transitions, there isn't really much that tops having a sibling enter the family. This will always rock the world of your older child and they will need lots of help to process the change.
I love helping families with the transition from one to two kids for two reasons:
- Because I found the year after I had my second baby really hard. I want all parents to have access to the information that can make this period easier.
- Because I now know that either were KEY things we could have done differently that would have changed the game and made life easier.
Six Key Tips for assisting your older child with a big change or transition
- Kids live in the moment. So, preparing your kids is good but don't overdo it or they sense your worry and concern.
- Play is the best way to prepare for a new sibling, a change in routine, a house move etc. Get down low and let your child lead but you can introduce some of the ideas through play.
- As the change gets closer, it's all about connection. Remember kids take in much more of what we DO than what we SAY so connect using your body. Think hugs, high fives, and delight. Just taking the time to be present can be a game-changer.
- Connection metaphors can help with the transition. An object to take with them for security. A heart drawn on mum's wrist and on your child's wrist to connect you both when separated. All these things help.
- Boundaries matter in a transition. Don't be tempted to change a routine or ease up on the rules that keep your child feeling safe and secure.
- Allow any feelings that come up for your child. If they are worried, nervous, scared, or sad make sure you name it for them and tell them it's ok to feel this way.
Want more support with transitions? sibling struggles? or meltdowns?
Join our Facebook Group where we cover off various scenarios.
Obstetric Social Worker and Parent Educator at the Mater hospital in Sydney and also a mother to four beautiful boys Genevieve is passionate about helping families in Sydney and beyond adapt to the modern parenting world and all its challenges and not only survive but thrive.