Updated: May 31, 2020
Meltdowns. They happen. They will happen often, especially during the stages when your child is discovering their independence and wanting to feel in control of their surroundings. This is why transitions can be so difficult, because usually we, the adults, are simply telling them, “it’s time to go”. When you’re having fun and immersed in something you’re enjoying, are you ready and willing to just leave upon someone telling you to? Not likely. So when we change our language with our littles and set expectations from the get go, we can ease those transitions into much more positive experiences. When we respect our children as people whom are quite capable of reason (most of the time), we set ourselves (and them) up for success. Let’s take a scenario of a day at the park...as you drive there, you start the conversation (set the expectations). First of all, let them know you’re going to the park, but set a time and run through some things you’ll do. “We’re going to play at the park for one hour. We’ll run and swing and slide, play in the sand and then have a little snack. After our snack it will be time to go home. Now you’ve set the stage and they know what to expect. So off to the park you go. Play, play, play, fun, fun, fun. As it approaches time to leave, you remind them that they’re going to have a snack and then it will be time to leave. Consistently setting the expectations and preparing them for what comes next. No surprises. Snack time comes...you discuss that when you finish eating, it will be time to get in the car to go home. Ok, here it comes, the big transition from leaving the park to go home. Typical meltdown time. However, because you’ve set the expectation from the beginning, you should have cooperation. This can still be a challenge, because park equals fun time! But stay consistent here. Remind them, that the plan was discussed. Now here’s where it helps to give choices, so they still feel involved, respected and somewhat in control. If leaving is difficult, you give choices, with firm boundaries. We are leaving the park, you can walk by yourself or I can carry you. Involve them with a task, so they feel connected and useful. I need your help, would you like to carry the snack bag or your sand toys? These are all ways of keeping them engaged and connected with you. By offering choices, littles feel they have control over their choices which is a huge step towards their need to grow independence. Keeping in mind, you offer choices that you’re ok with whatever they choose. If you need to leave the park and that’s the expectation you set, then stick to it! Keeping positive, helpful choices with clear set boundaries and remaining firm when there’s push back, you’re setting them and yourselves up for success.