Children experience transitions every day, ranging from waking up or getting ready for bed to moving to a new town or losing a loved one. According to Child Care Aware, teaching children how to successfully manoeuvre through these transitions will help their growth and development, ultimately preparing them to be more successful adults. You can help children cope with transitions by using specific activities, which will vary according to their age.
At this young age, helping with transitions is all about incorporating familiarity and consistency. It's already difficult for toddlers to discern who and what they can trust, especially if the people they are in contact with are constantly changing. Develop rituals and daily routines so the child knows what to expect, such as dressing before breakfast, a story at naptime, dinner with the family and a bath before bedtime. Always take transitions slowly and have a cue to let the child know a change is coming, like playing music or ringing a chime. Give them cues or warnings before a change occurs -- at the five-minute mark and three-minute mark, for example.
Like toddlers, preschoolers like routines and rituals; in fact, many preschool behaviour issues stem from adjusting to transitions. Children in this age group need time to switch to different activities, or a tantrum and struggle may occur. Use cues to mark transitions, but don't let preschoolers wait for them with nothing to do; use short games, songs and rhymes to fill in the waiting time. Hang up daily schedules that have pictures instead of words to show upcoming events such as doctor's appointments. Incorporate stories and books to prepare preschoolers for bigger transitions, such as going to school, moving away or the arrival of new siblings.
Children in school have already dealt with some considerable life changes; however, transitions can still cause them stress. Respect the intelligence of school-age children and let them have some input. When possible, involve them in issues that they're affected by. Have a listening session where you give them the details regarding their situation and listen to any concerns or fears they may have. Ask them questions, avoid being critical and respect their feelings. Conquering their worries and fears by working together can be a huge growing experience for children.
All adolescents crave the independence that comes along with transitioning into an adult; they are also less likely to listen to their parents. Because of this, experience becomes the teacher for most adolescents. One of the most important things parents can do to help their teens through transitions is to let go. Encourage them to be self-sufficient by letting them make their own phone calls and deal with minor problems, for example. Help them practice for the real world through activities such as buying groceries on a specific budget or learning how to cook for themselves. And always celebrate the milestones your teen reaches on the path to self-sufficiency.