Adults have to make transitions several times each day. Most of the time, transitions are made smoothly and without much thought. For children, however, transitions can be much more difficult. Kids are still learning how to deal with their emotions, and can lash out when asked to stop one thing, in order to do another.
Parents play a very important role, in helping kiddos learn to deal with transitioning from one thing to the next. If you have ever taken a child to a party or an amusement park, and had to tell them it’s time to leave, you’ve probably had to deal with a tantrum or outburst. I learned early on, the best way to handle such a situation, was to give the kids a countdown or let them know ahead of time, exactly what time we would have to leave. When kids have some advanced idea of when they will have to leave, they can prepare themselves for the transition.
We were at a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party for a child who just turned 5. Obviously, there were several 4- and 5-year-olds attending the party, including mine. The children were rounded up from running around playing games, to come eat cake and watch the boy open gifts. One parent had to leave and abruptly told their child it was time to go as he took his first bite of cake. He was clearly not ready to leave and very upset at the idea of having to go. His first emotional response was to pick up his piece of cake and throw it! As soon as the dessert left his hand, there was instant fear in his eyes. He knew he had made a mistake. He began to cry as Mom grabbed his hand and pulled him away from the table. In hindsight, I’m sure this parent realized, she should have just said, “Finish your cake, and then we need to leave.”
Children can function and transition more easily when they have a routine or schedule. My kids know that when they get home from school, they are to do homework before playing games or watching TV. If they beg to do something else before homework is done, don’t give in. If you give in to their requests once, then they know there is opportunity in the future which ends up in unnecessary arguments. The same goes with bed time routines, video games and TV time.
As our children grow, they become more equipped to deal with their emotions, and therefore, are able to accept the many daily transitions.