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How to make transitions for your child painless

As parents, our goal is to make our children's life as painless and seamless as possible but it's not always easy. Patience and practice is key to help children through new stages in life.

Today, parent educator Jocelynn Bryant walks us through some ideas on how to help our children develop routines that ultimately help them through new experiences.

A typical morning in the life of real parents:

Waking up children who are in a deep slumber after spending at least an hour trying to get them to go to sleep, then the challenge begins -- teeth brushed, get them dressed, breakfast (that they probably don't want), and find that shoe that was right there a minute ago so you can head out the door and drop them off at school or day care. We have all been there. You have probably asked yourself what could make this easier? The answer we all know but face challenges with: routines and predictable transitions; plus, lots and lots of practice and patience to equal success.

Routines follow a predictable schedule each day which will help your children to predict what will happen next. When children know what to expect, routines become more effortless and you can spend quality time with your children instead of stressful incidents while managing challenging behaviors.

Consistency is the key to success.

Carry out routines in the same way every time and make them fun; for example, start the day with a wake up song about brushing their teeth and head straight to the bathroom before any other distractions. Don't even talk about eating breakfast or getting in the car until it is time for those acfrins to happen. Avoid the onset of a tantrum about what they don't want to do 30 minutes prior to them doing it.

Transitions should be viewed as opportunities to learning about your child's personality.

Transitions provide opportunities for problem-solving, active listening, direction-taking, and cooperating. The Parents as Teachers Curriculum provides examples of two types of transitions. Horizontal transitions are changes in the home and/or family members' lives that occur within a narrow time frame such as a few hours, a day, or a week. Vertical transitions occur over a longer period of time like expecting a new baby or sibling. An example of both happening at the same time is a child who goes to preschool every day and has a parent who is expecting a baby.

There are also routine transitions.

I promise you this is not set up to confuse you. An example of a routine transition is a child who moves from infancy into toddler years - moving into a big kid bed, toilet learning, or even drinking from an open cup. You will need to set up routines and practice, practice, practice while your child is transitioning into his/her next developmental


The following are suggestions to use during routines as your child practices horizontal transitions, when shifting from one activity to the next:

  • Prepare your children before the transition occurs by telling them what will happen next. Ex. "Miles, good job brushing your teeth. Now, let's go eat breakfast." They will eventually learn that their favorite cereal comes after the hygiene tasks have been completed.

  • Keep language simple and repeat information or instructions, if they don't understand. (Stay calm. Your child is reacting to your actions.) Give them one instruction at a time. "Pick up your toys. Get your jacket. Where are your shoes? Did you finish your juice?" Whoa ... say that three times as fast as you can; that's all they hear. Slow and steady will win the race.

  • Use a picture chart or calendar to help show your children the events of the day. This works in classrooms and will be beneficial in your home, as well.

  • Allow adequate time within your routine and between transitions. Being late happens! If it you are consistently late, consider adding more time to the alarm. A 6 a.m. instead of a 6:45 a.m. wake up may be your key to happiness.

  • Keep it upbeat and structured. Sing silly songs, use reward charts, turn routines and transition times into a game. For example, see who can get dressed the fastest.

  • Don't compare your child to any others. You can set routines that work perfectly for your home. However, with regard to transitioning especially during toilet learning, every child is different. Some may ease into this new stage more quickly than others.

  • Practice patience. You and your child are learning about one another each day. Once you have set a routine, give your child ample time to adjust to a new structure.

It is important to maintain a positive attitude involving home routines to increase the special bond of parent-child attachment. Children find security in an expected environment of consistent morning, bedtime, and mealtime routines. These are also valuable times for families to reconnect from being separated during the day or to make the day run more smoothly for those who have chosen to be stay at home parents. No one expects, or would enjoy, a boot camp-styled home setting. However, with less frustration and yelling and more cooperation and communicating the home can run as a well­ oiled machine, with a few glitches from time to time which is totally OK.

©2016 by United Way Parents as Teachers.