Every parent has been there. You pick up your toddler from daycare or declare itís time for bed, and a meltdown ensues.
Itís no secret that transitions ó having to stop one activity and shift to another ó are difficult for toddlers. And transitions are everywhere in a toddlerís life, from daily routines like getting out the door for an activity and sitting down for dinner to life-altering transitions like moving from a crib to a big kid bed or welcoming a new baby brother or sister into the family. Because toddlers donít reason like adults or have a concept of time, transitions often can be the source of bad behavior.
For parents, managing the toddler tantrums and defiance that mark even the most minor transitions can be exhausting. But you can help your toddler. Use these tips to ease transitions for toddlers.
1. Set up (and stick to) routines. Setting up and sticking to your toddlerís normal routine can go a long way toward making transitions smoother. If your toddler has a solid understanding of what is going to happen next, you are eliminating a lot of the anxiety and fear that can lead to bad behavior when a toddler is out of his comfort zone.
2. Prepare your child. Whether it is a big change or something small, like what is expected of him, discuss the transition before it happens. Talk about what it will mean for your family. Books are a great way to introduce new concepts to toddlers, and many childrenís books tackle these types of changes, like sleeping in a big boy bed.
You also can prepare your toddler for lifeís little transitions. Establish expectations for how long a playdate is going to last, or if youíre struggling to stop one activity, tell your toddler that youíre going to set a timer. When the timer goes off, itís time to go. You donít need to give your child an hour to wrap his head around this ó five minutes is plenty of time ó but the advance notice will help him understand that when the timer goes off, itís time to shift to the next activity.
3. Give choices. Giving your toddler a feeling of control can help ease transitions. Keep in mind, these choices can be small. The point is your toddler will feel like the transition to another activity was her choice, and not something sprung on her.
Try this: When at the park, ask your toddler if she would like to leave now or swing for five more minutes then go home. Sheíll (obviously) choose the latter, but this way, sheíll feel like she made the decision, and it wonít be a surprise when itís time to leave.
4. Keep major transitions to a minimum. If youíre expecting to make a big transition, like moving to a new home, donít push other big transitions on him at the same time. While it may seem like the perfect time to give up the crib, keeping as many things the same for him as possible likely will ease the bigger transitions.
5. Determine if something else is going on. While itís easy to pinpoint transitions as the source of toddler behavior issues, it is worth considering whether something else is going on. Common culprits of tantrums are over-tired or hungry toddlers.
If your family is struggling with bedtime or naps, this may very well be the case. Try putting her to bed a few minutes earlier and keep pushing the time back from there as needed. Small tweaks can go a long way toward a happier toddler who is more willing and able to manage transitions throughout the day.
For more information on RCDCís early childhood programs in your community, visit us at www.rcdc4kids.org.