Helping Your Child Make Smooth Transitions

Latrell was moving from Head Start to kindergarten. Ho Lynn was moving from one daycare center to another. Kevin was moving across town. Although their situations were different, each youngster was in need of a parent who could respond effectively to transition time

Time is the key word in the Transition Time phrase. It takes time for a parent to create conditions conducive to producing readiness for a smooth transition. It takes time for a child to get used to and embrace a new situation. It takes time for a parent to tune into and respond effectively to a child’s positive and negative reactions to the change. To smooth the transition time for your child, take the time to read and consider the five steps to effective transitions.

Transition Step No. 1:  Be honest and open with your child, keeping him informed of your plans as they develop. Give him real reasons why the transition is necessary. A minor transition for you can be a big deal for him. Remember, to a four-year-old the last two years represent half of his life.

Transition Step No. 2:  Arrange for a visitation. Tell your child, “We’re going to see how the new school works.” Set it up as if you’re checking it out, looking it over. Treat this as an exploration, an adventure into discovery. Give her and yourself some things to look for, such as, “How is it the same/different than the last school?” “Let’s find out what you like and don’t like about it.

Transition Step No 3:  Debrief the visitation. After it’s over, ask your child what he saw that looked like fun and what he heard that sounded interesting. “What surprised you?” is a question that often produces helpful dialogue. “Did you see anything exciting or scary?” is another. Your goal is to get the child talking. Your job during the debriefing is to give him an opportunity to describe what he heard, saw, and felt. Concentrate on giving information, not on getting it. As your child talks about his experience, he will move through it and free himself from places where he might otherwise get stuck.

Transition Step No. 4:  Demonstrate understanding by granting in fantasy what you cannot grant in reality. Children faced with a big transition will often remark, “I like my old school better,” or “I don’t want a new teacher.” It’s not helpful to attempt reassurance with comments like “You’ll get used to it in time” or “Just give it a chance. You’ll probably end up liking it.” Better to use Parent Talk that demonstrates your understanding of your child’s experience by recognizing and honoring his or her wish. “You wish you could stay with Miss Sally forever” shows empathy and understanding while helping your child feel heard. “You’d like it best if you could pick your own teacher” tunes into the child’s fantasy without communicating that the wish will be granted.

Transition Step No. 5:  Send your child a capability message. “I know you can handle it” or “I know you’re up to it” are examples of Parent Talk that sends the silent message, “I see you as capable.” “I know you can handle it” does not communicate that everything will be wonderful. It just lets your child know you believe she can handle whatever occurs.

Implement the five steps to effective transitions to help your child deal with change. I know you can handle it.

About Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They also publish a free e-mail newsletter for parents and another for educators. Subscribe to them when you visit www.chickmoorman.com or www.thomashaller.com. Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. For more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their websites today.

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