Taking transitions in stride is a valuable life lesson that can be difficult for little ones to grasp. In a previous blog post, early childhood specialist Lynn Louise Wonders shared how parents can help children cope with major life changes. Change happens every day on a smaller scale as well, and easing children through daily adjustments can help them build the foundation they need to better handle bigger obstacles.
Children thrive in routines, so even a small change can be disruptive to them. At Primrose, we help children move smoothly through transitions, big and small, through a three-step process focused on information, expectations and communication.
Step 1: Provide Clear Information
Children need to feel safe, secure and nurtured in order to thrive. New experiences or a change in schedule can cause anxiety because it is unknown and unfamiliar. At school, change can be as simple as children moving from one activity to the next, or as big as moving to a new classroom. No matter the size, Primrose teachers provide children with clear information ahead of time—including what the change is and when it will happen—so they have plenty of time to process it.
Setting children’s expectations is a key step in helping them feel more comfortable with an adjustment. This can be done through discussion (which is more appropriate for bigger changes) or creatively through songs and kids’ games.
- Transition Songs: Using songs and the Primrose Friends puppets, Primrose teachers create excitement about moving on to different portions of the school day. For example, routinely singing a clean-up song at the end of an activity sets the expectation that it’s time to clean while emotionally preparing children to move on to what’s next.
- Transition Games: Playing fun school games like Follow the Leader, I-Spy and Simon Says helps children stay focused and energetic as they transition to new activities. You can build in expectation-setting by explaining where you’re headed before or between giving directions.
A great way to help prepare children for bigger changes, like a new classroom or school, is by reading age-appropriate books about navigating transitions. Reading books helps set children’s expectations in a way that is meaningful and relatable to them. It allows them to imagine their own experiences and express their fears.
In just a few weeks, Primrose children will parade in caps and gowns as they graduate and begin the transition to a new classroom or to elementary school. If your little one is anxious about the change or if you want to proactively ease her fears, consider reading some of the following books together:
Step 3: Maintain Open Communication
Keeping the lines of communication open is a very important part of helping young children through change. Children have a natural curiosity and desire to understand the world around them. Especially with big adjustments, giving them plenty of opportunities to ask questions and responding with clear, honest and age-appropriate answers helps children understand why the change is happening and feel more comfortable with it.
At times, trying to help young children through the many transitions that happen on a daily basis can feel like you’re swimming upstream, but remember – this is a normal part of parenting. Following the steps of providing information, setting expectations and maintaining open communication can make change of any scale easier to tackle for little ones. Remember, when possible, try to make transitions fun and exciting for children so they will be more willing to step out of their comfort zones and embrace change, no matter how big or small.