Transitions and expectations are like peanut butter and jelly; they can be ‘ok’ on their own, but they work GREAT when they’re used together! Transitions are a part of our every day life, from dropping off and picking up your kids at school, to transitioning between dinner and bedtime. We’ve found that to set a child up for a smooth transition, a child needs to know what is coming in order to avoid the surprise and a potential melt-down.

An afternoon playing in the sandbox at grandma’s house can bring so much joy for a child— imagining a castle and actually building it, sifting for gold in the powder, and getting as dirty as a pig. Abruptly, this kiddo is told to put the toys away because the family is leaving NOW. The child continues to play and gives some push-back on the thought of packing up his sand kingdom. The process of leaving grandma’s house is now on a path to a tantrum because he was not set-up for success during this transition. .

So how can we, as parents and caregivers, avoid this same costly mistake? Here are three important steps in trying to navigate transitions, whether it be with extra-curricular activities, at school, or during a big move:

    • Try planning the activities with the child, so they feel like they are a part of the transition and have an idea of what to expect for the day.
    • Be sure to communicate any changes with the child. This will encourage flexibility in the future when things don’t go exactly as planned.
    • Talk to your son or daughter about timeline expectations, giving 30-45 minutes for that child to prepare, both physically and mentally.

Let’s go back to the scenario described earlier. Imagine if a parent asked this child earlier where he wanted to go for dinner after visiting grandma’s house—bringing him into the planning! Imagine if he was told 30 minutes prior to leaving that it would be a good idea to start wrapping up, because together they’d all be leaving to go to the special place he requested. Now, this sand-specialized contractor is mentally prepared to enjoy his favorite meal, so he happily adds the finishing touches to his mote and he is ready to transition.

These tips can apply for anyone from toddlers to teens and even adults. Change is a hard thing to go through, so using these tips for bedtime, heading into a new grade in school, or moving state to state, will help ease the reaction to these transitions.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (Psalm 32:8)