Imagine you were having a great time catching up with your friends, laughing and joking, when suddenly an enormous pair of hands reached down, grabbed you without warning and carried you away.
Now imagine you were sitting by yourself, nearing the end of a great book when, unexpectedly, the giant pair of hands returned, carrying you away from your book while a voice instructed you that it was time to eat.
Some children will naturally find transitions harder to manage than others as a result of their temperament. But ALL children find transitions challenging when they are moved along from an activity in which they have been engaged. Sometimes this is expressed as frustration, disappointment, crying, defiance or aggression. And when we imagine ourselves in these situations, it’s easy to see why. Let’s face it – we’d be upset too. So what can we do to make transitions a little easier?
Tips for Improving Transitions with Your Child
The keys to minimising the upset caused by transitions are warnings, choice and consistency. You can also use labelled praise here too.
When you know that a transition is coming, let the child know by giving a warning.
“It will soon be time to finish up your play and come inside.”
Or, with my own children, I say:
“It’s almost time to come inside. Can you think about how you’d like your play to end and work on that ending now please?”
Offer a choice point if you think it might be helpful:
“Are you ready to finish up now or would you like a couple of minutes to finish your play?”
At the transition time, be consistent. Again, offer a choice point if necessary:
“It’s time to come inside now. Would you like some help to pack your play away or would you prefer to pack it away yourself?”
Finally, you can provide labelled praise if you think it might be helpful:
“Thanks very much. I was really impressed with the way you worked on your ending once I told you it was almost time to finish. You figured that out really well.”
The key steps to managing transitions:
- Choice point
- Labelled praise
Perhaps you’re taking this approach already during transitions with your kids. But if not, I’m sure you can appreciate how this approach is likely to be more successful than the sudden appearance of the ominous giant hands…
Dr Kaylene Henderson is passionate about sharing practical, research based advice to help you feel more calm and confident while raising kind, resilient and socially and emotionally healthy children.
And here for the corresponding course series for early childhood professionals, Raising Good Kids: Managing Behaviour and Emotions in Early Childhood Care and Education Settings.