Whether it’s moving, changing to a new activity, or heading back to school, change is hard. These transition skills for kids and parents help a lot!
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Within the past year our family moved to a new house and we traveled within three different countries. In a few weeks, my four kids start a new school year. We are incredibly fortunate that these are all very positive changes and transitions in our lives, but change can still be hard! Today I’m sharing simple ways to build transition skills and make it easier for kids to cope with change in their lives.
5 Transition Skills for Kids
Are you raising a child who struggles with change and transitions? These tips can transform your life!
1. Provide structure to help kids know what to expect.
It’s easy as adults to forget just how little control our children have over their lives. We tell them when to get up, when to go to bed, when to eat, when to play, when to stop playing. It’s no wonder that they struggle with transitions, or that they struggle to adapt to changes.
A visual schedule like the one shown above makes the day’s structure visible to even non-readers. Once children read, my kids use planners, a family calendar, and travel journals to stay organized when live feels hectic.
2. Give your child as much control as possible.
Wherever possible, let your child make decisions about things that impact their lives. This can be as simple as choosing to end an activity in 1 minute or 2 minutes. Let them choose between pre-approved outfits, activities, and foods to give them a feeling of control in a world where most choices are made by adults.
3. Use rituals and traditions to mark transitions.
Rituals and transitions provide markers that help us accept change! Birthday parties mark transitions to older ages that bring higher levels of personal responsibility. Bedtime stories help children transition from play time to sleep.
Even the simplest of rituals and traditions offer support and comfort to kids. That high five you offer your child as they get off the swing because it’s time to leave the playground is a ritual that marks the transition from playground to car. A hug goodbye helps your child make a smooth transition from school to home.
4. Find things you can hold onto that always remain constant.
Sometimes life has to be chaotic. A family emergency sends your everyday schedule out the window. A new baby wreaks havoc on the day to day life your older child assumed would never change. Parents and children get sick. Families move.
Wherever possible, look for simple things you can hold onto that remain constant. I sing the same song to my five-year-old every night at bedtime, no matter where we are. My children have journals they know they can always use as a safe space to voice joys, fears, and challenges. I tell my children goodbye before I leave the house, and goodnight as they go to bed. Something as simple as tracking the weather with your child can provide a sense of constancy and connection in the middle of stressful life changes.
See also: Benefits of Journaling for Kids and Journaling for Littles
5. Schedule time in nature to calm and process.
Nature is the ultimate relaxation tool! Taking a family walk outdoors where the kids lead the walk provides that relaxation while giving kids a healthy sense of control over their lives. Too busy for a walk? See if you can eat dinner outside. Find a playground where the kids can burn off energy while you take a break. Stuck indoors? Make time for open-ended play.
See also: Why Children Need Playrounds and What Is Open-Ended Play and Why Is It So Important?
What are your favorite tools for helping kids develop transition skills while coping with change? Share activities and recommendations on my Facebook page, or by tagging me on Instagram.
MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.
6 thoughts on “When Change is Hard: 5 Transition Skills for Kids”
Your list is very useful and should be carefully considered. Thanks for including so many helpful links!
These are great suggestions. We follow all of them at home. I still sing the same song to my almost 12 year old every night that I sang to her as a baby :)
Transitions are hard, and while I know providing structure is a good thing for kids, I’m terrible at providing consistent structure. It’s an area I constantly work on. All of your tips are what I know I NEED to do, but don’t always do.
Your kids might be old enough to start doing it for themselves using planners or bullet journals. I have a google calendar for the family that I share with Emma, and she loves keeping track that way. Of course, she is very much my daughter, so it comes very naturally to her :)
Two of my kids need to shift their sleep schedules to a normal one instead of a night owl one. This is going to be a tough transition!
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