If there’s anything kids suck at more it’s TRANSITIONS…. sorry to sound dramatic but the bad news is kids have a hard time moving from one activity to the next. The good news is there’s usually a reason for it and a way to help our kids transition better.
Sam and I are no stranger to the tantrumming toddler in the grocery store, the kid the doesn’t want to wake up to go to school or the child that doesn’t want to leave the super fun play date. WE ARE IN IT with you and boy do we feel it now more than ever.
Just to be real candid with you the last sixth months have been very challenging in our parenting world. We had a third baby and although our older boys love her, adding Ruby to the family brought on the most difficult transition. Our kids seem to have shorter tempers, whine more and are generally less flexible than before this huge family transition.
Janet Lansbury is a gifted parenting expert with an invaluable parenting podcast called “Unruffled” … it’s been giving us life lately! She explains in her work that bringing a new child into the family is as disruptive as having an affair in a marriage… not sure if I’m explaining that right. Basically it’s like this, if your spouse came home with a new partner and said, “hey honey, meet Debbie! She’s going to live with us now and I don’t love you any less I love you both the same.” How would you feel? Cheated on and resentful….well children usually feel this way too and the only way they know how to express their emotion is usually through bad behavior.
That’s where we as parents and sounding boards for emotions come in. We need a better toolbox so we can teach our kiddos to have their own toolboxes when their emotions become overwhelming. And one of the biggest triggers for emotional meltdowns is transition. Transition is just change but as humans we are wired for routine. Change is hard for us because it takes more energy to start something new. Think about this next time you ask your child to stop playing, put on their clothes, eat breakfast and get in the car…..this takes so much energy!
So here comes the good news… here are some tools for your tool box. Try implementing these ideas to assist your child with transitions.
Stick To A Routine: Having a daily routine and being consistent with a few things each day provides a feeling a safety for kids. They crave routine because it’s comforting and something they learn and digest more easily in this wild and unpredictable world. For example, teaching a baby to sleep through the night is all about routine and doing the same thing over and over again so they learn to self soothe. Older kids and even adults need this too. Having a routine helps us move from task to task with more efficiency and less tantrums.
Give A Heads Up: Giving kids an idea of what’s happening that day and then giving them a count down to the transition will help them move more quickly for one activity to the other. You can even engage in a role-play with your child to help them understand what is going on that day or during a particular activity. I think this would have been super helpful if I did this before Ruby was born so Zeke and Waylon could see how my time might be a little more scarce but then again hindsight is 2020. When you give them a countdown to the transition it allows them to emotionally get ready for the event or change. For example, “you have 5 minutes left on the iPad and then we’re putting shoes on. After that we’re getting in the car.” When you give countdowns try not to give too many demands or information at one time.
Sing: Mary Poppins said it best, “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun, find the fun and SNAP the jobs a game!” So add a tune to clean up time or bath time or carseat time and see if that helps with moody kids not wanting to do a dreaded task.
Use Visual Aids: Children aren’t able to verbally express and audibly understand things as well like adults are so using a visual aid like a transition chart with drawings can help them understand so much more. We use them in preschool and kindergarten so why not at home. Our son Zeke who’s 3 has been struggling with a little anxiety (he always wants to know where we are, what we’re doing and if he has school) so I made him a transition chart that allows him to fold up the task when he’s done with it and also see what’s expected next of him throughout the day.
Use Touch: For kids with ADHD in particular, connections is huge! When I was little I had some learning disabilities and could not follow instructions if there were too many. My parents learned that they could only give me one task to do at a time and that they usually had to touch my shoulder or face and look me in the eye in order for it to register with me. So what this means is yelling at your kids from across the room usually doesn’t accomplish anything but mounting frustrations.
Reward: I’m not above bribing my kids I mean rewarding them ha ha. The difference between bribing and rewarding is that rewards are set up ahead of time and laid out for kids to understand. Like “complete this task of vacuuming for the week and you will earn $5” instead of “stop screaming and I’ll buy you a toy at Target!”. Rewards work when they are fair and consistent… eventually you can phase them out as kids get older.
I truly hope this helps in your parenting journey cause gosh we know moody, anxious, and emotional people are hard to deal with… it’s even harder when they’re under the age of 18 and living under your roof.
Try making this transition chart! I gathered items from Target and Michels and made it in 10 minutes!
What you need:
Wooden sign from Target, self-sealing laminating pouches (although I didn’t end up using them), small clothes pins in case you don’t find magnets, magnetic tape from Michael and plain bookmarks so you don’t have to cut any paper, use a sharpie for drawing and a glue gun to glue the transitions to the sign.
So easy! Here’s a link to the blog post on Listening In the Litany that helped me with my drawings.