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Terrific Transitions

Help your child handle changes big and small — from starting preschool to moving from playtime to dinner.
 

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Cooperation
Self Control
Independent Thinking

To prepare your child for the transition to preschool, visit the classroom two or three times before you drop her off. Explore it with her, and be sure to talk about school with enthusiasm at home. In the early days and weeks, reassure her often that you’ll be there to pick her up when school is over. Find more parents’ tips for smoother separations.

More Transitional Moments
Beyond the big deal of adjusting to preschool, everyday transitions — such as getting dressed, moving from playtime to mealtime, leaving school or child care at the end of the day, and bedtime — can also present challenges. If your child has an easygoing personality, he probably won’t be bothered by transitions. But there will always be children who need extra time and special care to feel comfortable with any transition, large or small. For example:

  • Some children are extremely persistent. They stubbornly stick with a task until it is completed, regardless of what’s going on around them. Asking them to stop before they’re ready may trigger a tantrum or other forceful expression of anger.
  • Kids sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or certain smells, colors and textures are often prone to difficulties with transitions, as are children who are bothered by newness in general. New clothes, food, people, and furniture — such as a “big-girl bed” replacing a familiar crib — can be problematic for them.
  • Emotionally intense children may have extreme reactions at transition times — throwing fits or turning inward in an effort to protect themselves from their overwhelming feelings. A child who bites, for example, is usually one who doesn’t like others invading his space (even when it’s Mom or a teacher trying to help him move to the next activity). Show him acceptable ways to handle his frustration, such as asking for help or telling the intruder no. Reassure him that you still love him, but the behavior is unacceptable.

Coping Strategies
Many parents get cooperation with a simple egg timer. Set it for five or 10 minutes to announce the end of playtime or the time to leave for school.
 
Choosing the right language is another effective tool. Instead of demanding that your child get into the car because you’re leaving, tell her it’s time to go so she can play with her classmates.
 
You can also use rewards. Gaining an extra bedtime story or round of Candyland in exchange for good behavior is a better motivator than losing privileges for misbehavior. Some families give children tickets that can be cashed in for items on their wish lists.
 
Still, adaptability just isn’t in the cards for some kids. If chronic tantrums or other forms of negative behavior interfere with your child’s daily functioning, you may want to discuss it with your pediatrician. Most can assess temperament and refer you to a specialist for help. Over time, even the most difficult kids can change the way they handle change — learning to cope with transitions as well as their feelings.

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