- 3 mins
Tips on Easing Daily Transitions in the Home
One of the main catalysts for meltdowns and tantrums can be transitional periods throughout the day. These moments are also the most trying parts of parenting. Your child’s world is becoming bigger as their experiences expand and they learn new things. Big feelings and responses are ways in which children express and make sense of these constant sensory inputs they experience. This is why routine and consistency are paramount in early childhood. There is a sense of safety in knowing what comes next and setting our children up for these new experiences or transitions, we can help them tolerate, learn about and make sense of them.
Here are a few tips on easing daily transitions:
Set up your child’s expectations
Talk about what you are going to do this afternoon or what you are making together for lunch. Talking with your child about what comes next helps them not only prepare their minds and bodies for what comes next but it encourages their understanding of language and the connection you both have. With very young children, it can be helpful to wait for their responses, perhaps they babble back at you or offer you a different kind of body language. This will aid their social and communication skills.
Discuss your day with your child
This could be done while they are eating food, for example. Ask them about their favorite part of the day, and explore what you are going to do tomorrow as a family. This can be a great distraction technique during the most difficult transitional periods – eating dinner, perhaps? Having conversations with your child about the things you did together not only strengthens your relationship but it helps your child understand themselves better. What they liked, or didn’t enjoy. It also engages them in conversation and connection with you.
Discuss healthy habits during healthy habits time
For example, while helping to brush their teeth, talk about all the food they have eaten that day or tell an imaginary story that reflects certain personality traits of your child. This can be intriguing for toddlers as they can see a part of themselves in the story or a wish, perhaps. It also encourages healthy food habits as you explore all the tasty food they eat.
Allow your child to have some autonomy
During moments of transition, try allowing your child to have some autonomy as it may help them feel that they have a choice in what happens next. Perhaps you could try: “It is time for us to put our shoes on now. We are going to the park, I wonder which pair of shoes you’d like to wear?”
Tips for transitioning kids to bedtime:
Going to bed can be tough. This routine has many transitions and sometimes it can be a lot to ask a child to do in such a short amount of time. We would advise sticking to a routine. This reflects the safety and consistency that your child craves.
Remember, it is through trial and error that we all learn and sometimes, what may have worked last night, may not work tonight. When the pushback is not clear, lean on the connection you have with your child. Tonight, they may just need an extra 10 minutes of your time. You can sense this when they ask for “one more book”. Or they fight you on getting ready for bed or brushing teeth or hair. At this time of the day, it can be so taxing as everyone is tired. If you are emotional, remember that you are learning in this process too, and give yourself the compassion you deserve.
Some quick tips to help with easing daily transitions at bedtime:
- Use a transitional object – sometimes it can be really tough for our littles to be away from us when they are feeling emotional or have had a hard day. Perhaps allow them to cuddle an old t-shirt or teddy of yours or place a special stone or something that represents your relationship on their bedside table.
- Visually connect you both – use a piece of string that connects their room to your room and reassure them that you are not far away if they need you.
- Bedtime songs are a great option – Use the same transitional song from moving on to dinner to bath time to bedtime. You do a lot in that space of time and singing songs can be a calming way to prepare for the next moment. It is also incredibly regulating for all of you. This is why ‘clean-up’ songs are used so widely in pre-schools and nurseries!
- Use visual reminders – this works so well with children to help them see what to expect in the next activity. It mimics similar strategies in the school environment and it can be so motivating for them to see what is coming up next. Some parents like to offer a reward chart to manage tricky transitions. This is a personal preference. You know what will motivate your child the best.
- Timers can be fun – perhaps a sand timer or a countdown. This can be particularly useful when doing a tedious task like brushing your teeth. Children become motivated by a countdown as it helps them to anticipate how long to brush for and when it will end. This is why HIIT exercises are so popular for those fitness folk.
- Using transitional activities between transitions, such as, racing each other to the bathroom or jumping like a bunny to the dinner table. Also useful to release that energy at the end of the night.
- Give children time prompts when you move on to the next activity. This helps them to regulate and emotionally prepare for what is coming up next.
- Notice and recognize when a transition is managed well. It can be so easy to focus on when it all goes wrong. Try not to lose those many moments when it goes right. Be optimistic and specific in your praise: “Bathtime went so smoothly tonight. I really liked how you came out of the bath right away and brushed your teeth. Now we have more time to read together.” Offer a reward if you feel it is appropriate.
Sometimes the last thing you want to do is come home to a frustrated toddler who won’t bathe or let you brush their hair. But these may be the moments your child looks forward to the most. There is so much going on in their little brains. Their pushback can be ways they seek your attention or stall for more of you. Sit in those moments, be comforting and affectionate, and connect with them.
We recognize this can be most taxing for us too. Sometimes you can feel wiped out by the end of the day which is why evening transitional moments should be routined and consistent. Share the bedtime routine with your partner, a relative, or a friend. Sometimes it can help to have a buffer. Set your boundaries or your limits that you feel most comfortable with as a parent. Don’t forget to take a moment for yourself each day. Listen to that podcast, pop that Netflix show on, or take a bubble bath. Tap into those things that you enjoy the most. And the things that you enjoy about yourself the most. Show yourself appreciation and gratitude. It is in your self-care where your cup gets refilled.
- Give prompts and set up your child’s expectations for the day, the activity and the transition to what is coming next
- Give visual reminders, a sand timer countdown or a transitional object – something that represents your relationship
- Songs and funny activities that move you to the next thing is a tip that can help with easing those tricky daily transitions
- Give your child choices and offer praise and recognition when transitions are handled without fuss
- Don’t forget you! Self-care is important. Understanding the daily transitions that trigger you the most can help you mentally and physically prepare for them