When completing a diagnostic evaluation for a new client, I always ask about triggers for problematic behavior. Transitions are one of the top triggers for kiddos to start a temper tantrum and erupt in all around difficult behaviors. This is especially true for children with ADHD, anxiety, ODD, and ASD.
The difficult thing about transitions are that they are everywhere! Transitioning is a necessity of life and we as adults have to assist children in making transitions more manageable. So, how do we do that? Today’s post will focus on a few ways to make transitions smoother for both children and the important adults in their life.
Children need reminders of what is going to happen in their life. Imagine being focused and engaged in your favorite activity and then being told “we have to go to the store now!” You most likely would be surprised and confused why the individual didn’t tell you before hand. Children like to be mentally and emotionally prepared for their future. Giving reminders, such as a 10 minute and 5 minute warnings before transitioning will allow the child to prepare.
Similar to reminders, counting down helps children know that you mean business and that a transition will be happening soon. The concept of time is difficult for kids, but most children will understand how long it takes to count to 5. I recommend giving reminders and then when it is time to leave stating “I’m going to count to 5 and when I am done it is time to leave.” This will give the child an additional moment to process and prepare for the upcoming transition.
Use an Object
Transitions objects are definitely in right now! A simple object can help a child transition from one location to another or from one activity to another. It is more helpful to utilize a small object that the child is connected to, such as a stone or small toy, that they can take and stay with them through the transition. In my clinical work, I sometimes allow children to bring a toy to the waiting room to assist them in transitioning out of the session.
As they say, practice makes perfect! The same happens to go for transitioning! I know many clients and families that have been very successful in practicing transitions. This can be through going to school prior to the school year starting and pretending to enter and exit school or practicing coming and going from an activity. I have done this clinically with children who have difficulties transitions in and out of group therapy sessions held at our clinic.
Transitions are a part of life. Unless you live under a rock, they are going to happen. The best thing to do for kids is to stay consistent. Stay consistent in your schedule so that they are mentally prepared for transitions, stay consistent in the terms that you use, and stay consistent in the practices you engage in to assist them with transitions. Over time, you will see that transitions will become less of a battle and more of a life necessity for both you and the child.
Do you know of any other ways that transitions can be made easier? Comment below with your ideas! Until next time, Play on!