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!
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.
When Change is Hard: 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.
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.