Supporting Young Children Through Transitions
Children experience transitions every day, often many times a day. Some transitions are a part of their daily routine, while others can come with big changes; some transitions are easy for children to move through, but others might be more difficult.
Every child experiences transitions differently. Giving support and guidance is important, because transitions – or changes – can be challenging – even when it’s a positive change. Anticipating and reacting to change can bring on a lot of feelings, which can show up through the ways children behave. But support from their families will help children feel safe, secure, and confident during different types of transition situations.
Here are a few things adults can do to help children feel more comfortable in times of change.
Make connections. Show children there are similarities between what they’re experiencing now and how things used to be, or that there are similarities between a setting they are used to being in and a new setting.
- When they move into a different classroom at their child care center, show children there is a cozy corner in the new room, too, take them to find their favorite activity, and mention the names of friends who may also be making the transition.
- Make one-on-one time important with your big kids after their baby sibling comes home, and try to keep some routines – like bedtime – the same.
Read together. Incorporating books about favorite characters going through transitions can make these experiences relatable and familiar when they happen in real life, which can make them easier for children to understand. Here are some of our go-tos:
- Bye-Bye Time by Elizabeth Verdick
- See You Soon by Dilraz Kunnummal
- Llama, Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
- The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
- Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
- The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Communicate. Let children know about changes and what is coming up so they know what to expect..
- “We will leave the park in five minutes! Then we will go home for a snack.”
- “Tomorrow is an exciting day! We will be going to a friend’s house to play.”
Give children some control of the situation by allowing them to make decisions.
- Let children to help pack their backpack, or decide what shirt they want to wear.
- Give children choices, like what song to listen to on the way to different routine places (like child care or the store), and let them choose a new song for going someplace new (like swimming lessons or a birthday party).
Transitions are a big deal, and children will look to their adults for guidance. When adults do their best to stay warm and positive, and to remember that their children are still learning, it can help to calm any situation.
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Wyoming Department of Health
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