Fall has arrived and with it; change. We see evidence of the change all around us; in the changing colors of the leaves, children going off to school, and observing what happens to a jack o lantern left out for backyard animals to nibble at and moisture to eat away at.
Adults know that change is inevitable, and even so, some of us find transitions and change stressful. We feel the stress in our physical bodies and our emotional lives too. Change can be uncomfortable, but as we’ve grown and aged we’ve come to accept that change will happen, whether we want it to or not.
Throughout our lifetimes we’ve managed big changes like a new job, a new partner, a new baby, the loss of a loved one and so many more. Daily, we have managed small changes and transitions; a change in our route to work because of road construction, changing our plans because of a sick child or even an unexpected meeting at work. While those small changes are usually just an annoyance, we have to find ways to deal with them or the constant changes will have us pulling our hair out. Those big changes take more time and experience to know how to deal with.
Now, think about your young child. While young children do often experience big changes, when you’re three years old and your immediate environment is your whole world, even small changes can feel threatening. It is entirely expected that a young child may have difficulty with transitions. It is one of the most frequent issues teachers of young children work on at school. Your child’s teachers are a wealth of information on the topic of change and transition because they guide children through it several times every day. Check out our Child Development Corner for ideas on how to help your child with transitions at home and away from home.
Enjoy the crisp fall air, the rainbow of leaves littering the sidewalks and yards and the abundance of “spooky” decorations. See the world through your child’s eyes and don’t beg change to hurry. As adults we know that the crisp air will soon be icy cold, the leaves on the ground will turn to a wet, brown mess and the yards will soon be covered with a layer of snow. While the change from fall to winter might be unpleasant, keep in mind that winter has its own gifts to share. Change will continue to come and it is our job as parents and adults to hold children’s hands through it, whether we are jumping in mud puddles or building snow people. We can all help each other through change.
Here are some teacher tested tips for helping young children transition:
- Preview the transition as often as possible. We can help our children know what’s ahead simply by saying, “In ten minutes we are going to put your shoes on.” and “In five minutes we are going to put your shoes on.”
- Try to establish doable routines throughout your day, especially around challenging times like bedtime and leaving the house. If your child feels like much of their day is routine and they know what to expect, an occasional change won’t have the same weight.
- A visual schedule is a great way to help young children see what’s ahead. It could be as simple as pictures of them participating in the basic events of their lives: waking up, eating breakfast, going in the car, etc.
- Our toddler teachers use great language with our youngest learners with the phrase, “First this, then this.” For instance, “first we will play, then we will eat our snack.” or “first we will play outside, then your grown up will come.”
- Some children may appreciate an object or “lovey” to transition from one activity to another with. It gives them a sense of continuity when things change.
- Tasks like getting dressed to go to school are much easier for young children when the steps are broken down into easily understood “micro” steps. Rather than saying, “Get dressed.” you can say, “What do you need first? Underwear” then “okay, what’s next, t-shirt.” Even the youngest children can benefit from hearing their grown up lay out the steps even if they can not answer the questions yet.