For the month of September we have tips tackling transitions. Most kids don't like change, and young children often panic when they don't expect change. The stress associated with changes to his normal routine can actually impact your child's brain development. However, change is part of life. That is why, this week, we have tips on making daily changes as stress-free as possible-- for everyone.
Your Baby/Toddler (Birth to 36 months)
Transitioning between everyday activities, such as from waking up to getting dressed, or from playtime to feeding time, can be difficult for many babies and toddlers. Often your child may resist getting changed or become extremely upset when leaving his toys to go have lunch. Here are a few ways that you can help your child prepare for these changes and become more cooperative:
- Be sure to build in extra time in the morning to allow your child to wake up gradually. Speak slowly and softly, giving gentle rubs and touches to let her know that it’s you that is waking her up. You may even turn on a small light to let her know it’s time to wake up and start the day.
- When moving from playtime to any other activity, such as mealtime, give your child 10 and 5 minute warnings to help him understand that soon play will be over. Encourage him to finish up his play, and reassure him that once he has finished his meal (or any other activity) he can return to his toys.
- Always explain to your child why she needs to be moving from one activity to another. While she may not always understand exactly what you are saying, it is important to communicate with your child about how her day will be affected by the decisions you make. Try to make it relatable, for example: “I know that you do not want to leave the park to go to the grocery store, but I need to pick up something for us to eat for dinner, and we are all out of your favourite cookies! Would you like to help me pick them out?”
- Limit your child’s transitions as much as possible. Of course, there will always be days when something unexpected or necessary happens, but your child will learn to trust you more about what’s happening in his day when you are consistent and thoughtful about his needs.
It can be easy to get caught up in life’s “to-do” list, but remember, preparing your child for the day ahead will help you both get through it with as little stress and frustration as possible. Seeing you be calm and collected when moving from one activity to another will show your child that transitions do not have to be difficult, and he will eventually become less resistant to changes in his day.
Your Preschooler (36 months to 48 months)
Your preschooler is much more used to the changes in his day than he was as a baby and a toddler. However, it is important for your child to be prepared for the unexpected, which can still be frightening at this age.
- Give your child choices in order to make her feel like she has more control in her life. For example, when deciding what to wear in the morning, give your child 2 or 3 options that are appropriate, and then allow her to choose her own outfit.
- Give your child 10 and 5 minute warnings before he needs to end an activity; he now have a better idea of how much time he has left and will be less resistant when his time is up. Tell your child how proud you are of him that he listened to you when you told him that it was time to move on to something else.
- Allow your child to become a part of your day’s decisions when possible, and make conversation with her about the changes that may come throughout the day. Role-play certain scenarios and talk about all the different ways the challenges in your day could be handled.
Preschoolers are much more aware of what to expect in their day, and they are also able to start making decisions for themselves as well. Allowing your child to be a part of the preparation by giving him choices and playing out possible scenarios helps your child adapt to changes in his day, which helps him become more confident and self-assured.
Want more tips? Read all of the tips from our partnership with Infant Mental Health Promotion at SickKids.