Ask an Expert: Daily Routines?

Help! My toddler often becomes very upset when transitioning between daily routines, such as getting in the car to run errands, or putting the iPad away to take a nap. What should take only a few minutes turns into a 20-minute ordeal! What can I do to make these transitions go smoother for both my child and me?

Typically, children become upset or defiant when they feel that they have no control over a situation, which causes a certain level of anxiety. Having to turn the iPad off at an arbitrary time feels so unexpected that they act out as a way to take back some control. It can also occur when they feel overwhelmed or anxious about what is going to happen next (in their day, or in that specific activity), such as when they have to get in the car. They may not know what to expect at the grocery store, despite having been there many times before. A simple, yet effective, solution to this is to implement a visual schedule into your daily routine. This allows the child to see what is coming next in their day, and gives them some control over knowing if/when an activity will end.It can be as basic as pictures of routine activities (eating breakfast, dropping sibling at school, music class, errands, lunch, nap, etc) taken on your phone or printed from the internet. I have found that phone pictures work best, as they portray the actual objects and environments that your child interacts with. You can print the pictures, laminate if desired, and add Velcro for easy manipulation of the day’s activities. As another option for kiddos who struggle to finish an undesirable activity, you may want to add an ‘all done’ or ‘stop’ envelope at the bottom for your child to deposit the pictures/activities that you have already completed. Add the remaining Velcro pieces to the outside of a manila envelope for the visual schedule, and also on the inside for storage of unused pictures.The picture below offers a great example of a visual schedule, so feel free to check it out and model your own visual schedule from the guide! Happy transitioning.