The most trying times of day are often the transition times: mornings, drop off, pick up, bedtime… anytime you and your child are shifting gears into a new activity place or person.
How can you help your child (and yourself!) navigate the transition times in your day?
Remember that kids thrive on routine and structure and they like to know what's coming next in their day. They tend to find security in daily predictable patterns and routines. Providing a way for your child to gain an understanding of how his day will go will eliminate some of the undesirable byproducts (tantrums in younger ones, lack of listening and cooperation with the older ones) that tend to rear their ugly heads during transition times.
I have found that one effective way of helping your child to visualize what his day will look like is to create a picture chart that depicts the order of his day. Think of it as a child friendly Dayrunner. Small children are not as consumed with "clock time" as they are with the sequence of events, so having a visual picture of what comes next will speak to your child in a way he can comprehend. For a child who attends preschool and is picked up after naptime, I'll often make a chart that describes his day with photos of the following: A sun, breakfast food, a toothbrush, shoes, a car, a school, blocks, a sandwich, a bed, then a picture of you and your child. This type of chart can be as elaborate or simple as you create it to be, but the concept behind it is what makes it effective.
When you are planning your child's routine, pre-thinking the typical events and needs in an average day can help you come up with many ways to simplify stress and make transitions tantrum free for you and your child. Here are some of my best tips for creating a transition friendly environment.
• Have a place for everything. Having a place for everything eliminates lots of morning chaos (and the added pre-caffeine stress) associated with last minute search and rescue missions for lost shoes, homework, library books, etc.15 Secrets Moms Use to Stay Ahead of the Clutter
• Utilize a cork board. Having a bulletin board by the front door reserved for school notices and schedules is a great visual, ever-present remind of what's going on and when.
• Have a specific place for morning necessities by the front door. Getting Alex in the habit of picking his back pack up by the front door and leaving it there once he's done with it for the night, will eliminate frantic morning homework hunts.
• Pull out clothes in the evening. Laying out Mandy's clothes the night before on the edge of her bed is one less thing to have to deal with in the morning. Setting up systems for these little things really does save time and energy in the long run.
• Use verbal cues to wind down activities. Phrases like "You have three more minutes to finish eating" or "We are leaving for preschool in five minutes" help your child prepare for what comes next.
• Sing loud and proud. Creating songs for activities also helps kids transition. Who wants to clean up? No one - until you burst into my rendition of "Clean up, put away" personalized to include the name of every child in the room. And it works with older kids too, they'll just do what you want so that you STOP singing.
• Keep good-byes short, sweet and final. One of my pet peeves when volunteering in the church nursery is prolonged good-byes. You know full well the ones I am talking about. The 15 minute goodbyes where Charlie is screaming for mommy and each time she begins to leave him is pulled back into the room, unable to handle the tears- knowing full well that when she returns he'll be crying that he doesn't want to leave. Sometimes the nanny in me wants to issue a time out for making matters worse. I just want to scream "Leaving him is not an option, you are going to do it, you know when you peek around the corner in three minutes he'll be fine so stop prolonging your departure!" But, instead I put on my happy nanny face and gently escort the mom out the door, assuring her that I will page her if for some reason he doesn't settle in the way he has for the past 2 years. Week after week, I wonder if I am starring in an episode of a new reality show- Drama Drop Offs- or something of the sort. All that to say, if you've chosen a caregiver or care giving situation that you trust, and if you are determined to have your child stay there, put on your happy face, appear to be confident and with a relaxed approach, say your "see ya laters" and transition on. It will go quite smoother then you think.
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