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A Blueprint for Better Transitions

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

Are you worn out with navigating these daily transitions - aka power struggles?

  • Trying to leave the house

  • Getting ready for bed - brushing teeth, etc.

  • Getting up in the morning

  • Ending play time or screen time

  • Homework

  • A parent arriving home from work

Transitions are a source of anxiety and stress - that’s brain science. Recognizing this and helping your child will feel less anxious by creating a P-L-A-N for transitions - that’s a parent-centric approach that will put you back in the driver's seat and help avoid power struggles.

An effective P-L-A-N of action for transitions has 4 pieces.






Create PREDICTABILITY. When your kid knows in advance what to expect they will be less anxious. Less anxiety means less negative behavior and smoother transitions. Some ideas for creating predictability are the following:

  • Remind your child the night before about the next morning’s schedule - even if it’s a regular thing like school or camp.

  • Look at a calendar of the day’s activities together over breakfast

  • Take photos of your child doing the steps of a routine, like getting ready for bed. I.e. cleaning up toys, going upstairs, brushing teeth, putting on jammies, story, etc. Break it down. Then have your child put them on cards or on a poster they can refer to.

  • Create a checklist for your child to follow and check off by themelves.


Transitions require extra time, not just the amount it "should" take. But I’m guessing you’re already familiar with the exhausting effort of trying to get your child to hurry up and get ready to leave the house or go to bed or do what they’re supposed to do.

Start by adding 15 minutes LONGER than you think is needed for a given transition - where possible. This will take some pressure of both you and your child and won’t really take longer than the 15-20 minutes you spend arguing with your child. But adding time alone isn’t enough without the other 3 pieces of the PLAN.


Jane rushed out of the house to pick up her 3 yr old at camp. When he got into the car, he was hot, tired and thirsty. He wanted a drink, but they had a 15 min ride to get home and she had forgotten to bring water with her. A tantrum ensued that lasted the whole ride home. No mom can keep track of everything in her head or anticipate every need her child has.   

So give your brain a break! ANTICIPATE what you might need ahead of time and make a reusable checklist. This is helpful for the simplest transitions, like picking your kid up from school and definitely for the more complex ones like getting ready for bed or travelling.

Jane’s checklist might only have 3 simple things on it:

  • Water (for mom and kiddo)

  • Snack for kiddo (crackers, cheese stick, bar)

  • Wipes (for dirty hands)

But what a difference having them could have made!


And what I mean here is NOTICE your own stress. In my experience, this piece is the most challenging to practice. At the same time, I believe it’s the most important. Because your child’s brain in integrally connected to your brain, the more stressed you are, the more stressed your child will be. I know that sucks. But it also puts the power in your hands to be your child’s executive functioning - as one of my clients put it so perfectly. So as soon as you start to feel that “here we go again” feeling, hit the pause button and take a breath or two.

Join the conversation on facebook HERE or share your thoughts and experiences below.

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