Transitions are hard. For young kids, feelings of anxiety or worry that pop up during transition times can lead to whining and stalling, tantrums and meltdowns – behaviors that don’t feel good for anyone.
While every kid experiences transitions differently, there are some tactics families can use to support their kids during transition times.
Before the Transition
Preview & Count Down
In the morning, talk with your kids and lay out what the day is going to look like so they know what to expect.
Before each transition period, give a timeframe and a description of what is coming up (in 20 minutes, then 10, then 5, it will be time to finish breakfast and put shoes on to head to school).
Some kids prefer visual cues for what comes next in the daily routine.
Try a chart with drawings or photos of what to expect and a timeline of the steps in your family routines. Refer to the chart as transitions come up.
During the Transition
When kids associate a familiar song with a task or a change, it makes the transition feel more familiar, like something they know they have done before and can do again.
You can make up your own songs for different times of day (but keep them consistent for individual transitions) or listen to the same song every time a certain transition happens, like a song for child care drop off and one for brushing teeth.
Make a connection to ensure you have your kids’ attention. This can look like making eye contact, sitting next to them, placing a hand on their shoulder, or asking your kids to repeat back what you said.
This is effective when you’re entering the transition time and when giving support through a difficult transition.
After the Transition
Encourage & Praise
When your kids have a good transition – it doesn’t have to be perfect – let them know you noticed how well they handled the change. Be specific and enthusiastic about what they did.
If a transition time didn’t go so well, acknowledge that, too! Talk about why it felt hard, give hugs, let your kids know it’s OK, and that you will try again tomorrow.
Remember, your kids are unique! It may take practice to figure out what tactics work best for your family.
Adapted from the Wyoming Early Learning Standards