Transitions are tough for kids. I have written about this parenting struggle before. Imagine the following scenario:
You are at work and are in the middle of replying to an important email. Suddenly, your boss walks in and says:
‘Stop that now please, I need you in my office straight away.’
How would you feel?
Or, how about this transitions scenario?
You have gone for a nice meal out and are enjoying eating your sticky toffee pudding. You are savoring every mouthful, and are about halfway through when the waiter comes over, picks up your bowl, and says to you:
‘I’m sorry we are closing now, you will have to leave. You say ‘but can’t I just finish my pudding,’ to which the waiter replies, ‘no, you knew what time we closed, now off you go.’
How would you feel?
I am sure you have all noticed that children seem to live in a different time zone than adults, and, surprise, it’s generally slower.
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Children need more time for transitions while adults are ruled by their own busy agendas; to get to school on time, to get to work on time, to have the meals cooked, the housework and shopping done, to finish the homework, get on with bedtime and all our other routines.
Simple Ideas to Help your Child with Transitions
Hint: These tips all involve giving plenty of time for your child to transition from one activity to another.
- ‘When Mummy has finished tidying up it will be bath time’
- ‘What time will it be when Mummy has finished tidying up?
- (You go and do your tidying up, come back a few minutes later)
- ‘Mummy has finished tidying up, what time is it now?
- Bath time!
Do this consistently with younger children. You may still get a tantrum, but these will happen less often as they get used to this routine.
Related Read: What is Montessori Parenting?
The Five-Minute Warning
- Useful for children who are learning or have learned to tell the time. Use a clock or set an alarm on your mobile phone.
- Alternatively, have a look for one of the lovely sand timers for children that are available these days, or just use a good old-fashioned egg timer.
- Many parents I work with find that having something visual can be very useful to help children know when they have to transition from one activity to another. For example in the mornings instead of saying ‘Five more minutes playing then you have to get dressed,’ you can turn your 5-minute sand timer upside down and say: ‘When the sand has all fallen to the bottom, I want you to start getting dressed.’ If you stay upbeat and make it fun, it makes it easier for your child, and you!
Use Cues to Signal a Transition is Going to Happen
- For example, if your child makes a fuss about going to bed, it is very helpful if you have a regular bedtime routine that includes a cue that will prepare your child for this transition. Switch to a wind-down activity such as looking at books together at the same time every day.
- Allow more time
- This one may seem obvious to you, but it can make a big difference to the quality of your day. Don’t expect your children to accomplish transitions at the same time that an adult would, allow them the time they need.
You may have noticed that children live in a different time zone to us adults. Understanding this fact can sometimes make your life as a parent easier. When trying to work out why your child behaves as they do, it can be really useful to put yourself in your child’s ‘shoes.’
Try making a mental note every time you catch yourself ‘rushing’ your child over the next week or two. You will be shocked at the number.
Think about how you can slow things down a bit.
About the Author:
Jane Rogers lives in the UK and is the founder of The Cambridge Parent Coach. She is experienced in running a number of highly regarded parenting courses, and writes and runs her own workshops for parents. Jane is passionate about Positive Parenting and her aim is to share the ethos and ideas of this style of parenting in a way that is simple to understand, and easy to put into practice.
Jane’s two parent workbooks: ‘How to Encourage Positive Behaviour so You Can Enjoy Your Children’ and ‘How to Use Positive Discipline to Improve Your Child’s Behaviour’ is available on Amazon.