Troublesome Transitions

It’s 7 am in the morning. DS refuses to come out of the bed. I insist…he whines. I look at wall clock anxiously and run around the house to carry out morning chores so that everyone can leave home in time. Amid the morning chaos getting DS dressed, fed and out of the door becomes a recipe for meltdowns and tantrums. And we all end up getting stressed and frustrated despite my earnest attempts to stay calm and patient.

This is how typical mornings in my house looked like until few weeks ago. Chaotic mornings that spilled stress to the rest of my day.  I wanted to get to the root of the thing which was causing friction.

Was it school? No, because he absolutely loves going to school. Then sleep, fatigue, lack of attention? Definitely no! He was getting proper sleep and I made sure that his attachment tank remained full too. What was is then? While I sought the answers, a little research and tweaking of my approach and response to his behaviour broke the ice finally.

Transitions! I should have known. Ever since he was a baby I’ve known that change of place and situations has always troubled him. And I’ve always made it a point to brief him in advance about the upcoming change. What I missed this time, however, was the fact that even subtle transitions of day to day life like shifting between activities could elicit meltdowns of that degree.

Life doesn’t flow smoothly; it is made up of transitions. And to move along we need to get on with them. But transitions aren’t always pretty…sigh! They take effort, consume energy and push you out of your current comfort zone. It’s against human nature to abruptly stop what’s captivating our interest at the moment and move on to next.

In the process of growing up we all learn to deal with transitions, acknowledge our emotions and learn our responsibilities depending upon individual temperament. Even I hit the snooze button on my morning alarm at least twice every day before my sense of responsibility takes over and gets me going. While the concept of time and schedule makes sense to us adults, but not to small children. They live in the moment and might find it hard to cope with change in the fast moving and overwhelming world. Why get out of the bed when you could remain snuggled in blankets, or go to bath tub while that new lego set intrigues you…and then why get out of bath tub when playing in water is so much fun!


Photo Source: U.S. Army

And unfailingly the adult who imposes the change on them becomes the villain. I knew that I needed to change my approach to ease the trouble transitions were causing. Apart from maintaining his schedule and keeping him informed about the upcoming change (which are crucial to ward off transition troubles) here’s what I did.

Happy and cuddly mornings

I decided to give up some more on my sleep (And that’s excruciating!) and be up half an hour earlier. That gives me more cuddling time with DS and he resists less while getting out of bed. That certainly made our mornings happier to start with.

Superhero trick

Ever since he turned four, DS miraculously discovered his superhero streak. And guess what Mommy couldn’t be happier! To get him dressed and out of the house I tell him how we’re on a superhero mission and need to speed up the chores and defeat the sloth monster to catch the bus! Voila…it works!

And I use the same strategy for other outings and errands too.

Blame the clock- Timers save Mommy’s day!

While on a play date or in a park this one comes most handy. The idea is to shift the focus from ‘mean mommy’ to ‘mean schedule’. I put a timer and tell him that once the alarm goes off, we need to close current activity and move on to the next. Besides, I inform him five minutes in advance that we need to wrap up, it’s time.

Making transitions positive and rewarding

Fear of upcoming change may often scare the young minds and make them anxious. For common triggers and troublesome transitions, I try to put forward something that seems positive and rewarding to DS. Like in the mornings if we reach 10 minutes early at our bus stop, he gets to play in the park right next to it. And we follow it as a ritual which makes him see the positive side of transitions.

These are the few techniques that worked for me. If your little one finds it hard too to put brakes on one activity and start another, you may consider these or other expert techniques or even use few of your own depending upon your kid’s temperament.

Transitions, I must say, can be troublesome indeed. And as adults it’s our responsibility to be present and respond empathetically during such difficult times and help our kids learn to cope with them. They’ll grow out of this soon, what they’ll remember however would be the compassion and kindness shown by us when they felt terrible and vulnerable.


Photo Source: Linda Åslund


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