Transitioning or changing from one position, state or stage to another is difficult for many adults and children. Innate temperament plays a big role in how people handle transitions in their everyday life.
Think of a day when you ran late for work, got caught up in traffic and then dropped all of your belongings on the way in the door to the office. Were you able to shake that off and just move forward in a positive way? Some people could do that and for others, their day would be seriously affected.
Children are the same way. Some children do not blink when transitioning and others fall apart. So how should parents handle transitions with their children?
As always, it is about teaching and guiding. Starting from a very young age, parents should always give verbal warnings about impending transitions. Letting your child know that you will be leaving the park and allowing them the time to have closure on their experience will make all the difference. It will not only help them deal with the transition but it will also let them know that you honor the difficulty and understand their emotions.
Can you imagine standing in a cocktail party, holding a yummy drink in one hand and an appetizer in the other hand and all of a sudden having someone just pick you up and carry you out? You would probably cry too! 🙂
Parents can also set up a structure for what is happening before and after the experience. “Johnny, we are going to clean up a little bit around our house, go to the park and then we will have to pick up Daddy. Just by verbalizing the structure of the day, the child will begin to process the series of events that will take place.
With one of my children, transitions were really tough. Even with the warnings and knowledge of the structure of the day, my child would often fall apart. Once thing I did that really helped when we were leaving the park was to bring an empty jar from home with me. When it was time to leave, I would tell my son to fill the jar with sand and take a little piece of the park home with us. He really responded to that and using the transitional activity of filling the jar helped bridge us to the next part of our day.
Validating emotions and feelings in any situation is so important but when dealing with a transition, it is so key. Let your child know that you understand. Talk to your child in a calm moment, prior to the event to see if they can let you know what would help them manage the transition they will experience later in the day. It feels good to be honored. It feels good to be understood. When you let your child know that you will help on this level, it will help them develop many coping tools that they will use for life.