Supporting your child with transitions
Often transition times can be the moments in parenting when conflict arises. Your stress response can get triggered when you need to leave the house in a hurry to be on time for school, or are exhausted after a long day and wish the kids would just go to bed rather than doing the wall of death around the bedroom! Many parents report difficult moments occurring when it is time for tablets or other electronic devices to go away.
Often children find it difficult to leave activities they find exciting or absorbing. They may not be on board with our schedule or understand why it is necessary to have a schedule depending on the age of the child. They might be so delighted by and wrapped up in whatever they are doing that interruption can feel painful. Can you recall blissfully playing with your friends in the playground, deeply in an imagination game, how disappointing it felt when the bell went to call you back inside? I can remember getting into trouble for limping into class with my shoelaces tied to my best friend’s after a particularly adventure-filled playtime.
When we are asking them to stop what they are doing and come to dinner, dress for school it’s important that we acknowledge the fun they have been having and find ways to make the transition gentle. Talking to your child about how they would like to handle transition times and coming up with ideas together can be a great way to get them on board.
The p.e.a.c.e. process can help:
Before approaching your child, take a moment to connect with yourself, if you notice your anger or anxiety levels rising it might be a good moment to take a few breaths. As psychologist Stephen Porges teaches, breathing in for 4 counts and out for 8, is a great way to let your nervous system know you are safe and is a quick route to calm.
Before making a request of your child, engage with them, get on to their level and let them know you are interested in whatever it is you are doing. This is preferable to shouting from the next room (which I admit to doing occasionally!) as trust between you and your child is built in these small moments of care.
Notice any thoughts or judgements you are having so that we can avoid voicing any anger or blame towards our child. Check your expectations are age appropriate.
Communicate with Compassion
When you make a request of your child try to acknowledge them eg. I can see you are really enjoy that game, then ask for what you need, it’s time to stop playing now, then offer a reason, it’s time to leave the house and it’s really important to me to be on time, or, it’s the end of the gaming time that we agreed on and in our family we recognise it’s important to keep agreements we make with each other.
This kind of communication works best when, over time, you establish a culture of collaborating to make agreements, understanding each other’s needs and preferences. Clarity about non negotiable boundaries for you and them is also really important in maintaining a healthy relationship. Here is a link to a blog post I have written on the subject.
If your child is having a hard time dealing with your request you may need to take time to empathise with them so that they are able to respond. If certain transitions are often difficult, painful feelings might come up for your child, try to be compassionately alongside them as they express and move through these feelings. You could agree to have a longer conversation about helping to make transition times easier.
The more you practice deeply listening to your child the easier transitions will become. If things are a struggle feel free to reach out. Book a free conversation here.