What counts as a transition?
Transitions are the times in the day that your child moves from one activity to the next. When looking at a typical daily schedule, transitions occur from the moment your child wakes all the way through his or her bedtime routine. Examples of transitions include:
- Getting dressed
- Leaving the park
- Sitting down for a meal
- Cleaning up
- Preparing for bed
Why does my child have difficulties with transitions?
It is important to first determine that your child’s basic needs have been met; is my child hungry, tired, or sick? If you answered “yes”, then the expectations at that time may be unrealistic for your child to follow. Before beginning a behavior routine, ensure that your child is at his or her best ability to successfully participate.
Many children struggle with transitions as their environment moves at a quicker pace, and their desire for independence grows. The demands placed on your child become stressful, developing frustration for both you and your child. This is when a power struggle begins!
Children with disabilities, such as autism, may have a greater need for predictability, difficulty when a pattern is interrupted, or trouble with understanding what activity is coming next.
How do I turn my child into a transition master?
There is great news – trouble with transitions is NOT a new problem. Many therapists, teachers, and parents use tried and true methods for helping children move from one activity to the next.
Consistency: If a transition occurs frequently (e.g. bedtime, brushing teeth), it is important to make the transition as consistent as possible. For example, if your child avoids brushing his or her teeth, make the expectation known that brushing teeth occurs as soon as your child wakes up and before reading a book at night. Once your child knows the routine, the difficulties following it disappear.
Provide (limited) choices: When it comes time to clean up an activity, you can ask your child “Do you want to clean up by yourself or would you like me to help you?” At first, your child might ignore you or begin to tantrum. When this happens, calmly use hand-over-hand assistance to help your child put their toy away. It is essential for your child to learn to follow your directions! At first, you may become more upset; however, your child will quickly learn to successfully follow instructions.
Use visuals: It is often helpful for a child to understand what is coming next. A visual schedule using pictures of each activity for the day will prepare a child for what is coming next. A timer will allow your child to understand what “two more minutes” means and prepare accordingly.
Allow your child to feel heard: When your child is upset, explain that you understand. For example, you can say, “I can see that you are feeling sad.” I know that you were having fun with your cars! Right now it is time for lunch. We can play with your cars tomorrow”. This not only allows you to demonstrate empathy, but also gives your child a model for appropriate language to express him or herself.
If you have further questions regarding transitions or other behavior concerns, please contact a social worker at Playworks Therapy to help meet your needs!