Let's Talk about the Ordeal of Transitions
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Recently an exasperated mom said to me, “Why does everything have to be such an ordeal?” She was referring to everything from trying to leave the house, coming home from a play date, coming inside after playing, to getting ready for bed.
Today I want to talk about transitions because I’ve noticed in my work with parents over the years, that almost all power struggles occur around transitions. However, some transitions are more obvious - like going to school or on vacation - and some are less obvious - like getting out of bed, putting on shoes or coat, showering, changing classes, getting ready for bed. It can be so frustrating and confusing when the simple things you expect your child to be able to do every day are transitions.
Transitions require changing from one state of being or activity to another. According to brain science, that makes them inherently stressful. Some children (and grown-ups too) are more sensitive than others to that stress. (Imagine my hand raised here.) The more stress-sensitive your child is, the more anxious they’ll be around transitions and the more they’ll act out.
Here are 3 C’s to help your child through transitions:
Get Curious: When you start to get that “here we go again feeling,” pause a sec and ask yourself, “Is this a transition?” If whatever you’re asking of your kiddo requires them to stop doing one thing or being in a certain place and requires them to do another thing or be somewhere else (even within their own house,) it’s a transition.
Connect: Realizing that your child is stressed or overwhelmed rather than just being difficult, allows you to approach them with the understanding that they need your help rather than with the natural tendency, as parents, to push harder to get them to do what you want. So practice asking this question, “How can I connect with my child during this transition?”
Provide a feeling of Control: And by this I do NOT mean letting your child be in control of the situation. I mean that giving your child a concrete feeling of control will decrease their anxiety and thus, diminish difficult behavior. This might look like having your child set a timer or visual timer, or giving your child a choice of two acceptable options. Ask yourself, “What is OK to give my child control over in this situation?” We can brainstorm more ways to do this, if you’d like.
Curiosity, connection and giving a feeling of control to your child boil down to what I call a parent-centric approach. This is an approach that empowers YOU to be in control of the situation, by being able to step back and assess what’s happening so you can respond most effectively and not get caught up in the power struggle.
Here are 2 other posts about transitions that you may find helpful:
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