Tips for Managing Transitions with your Toddler

Dr Kaylene Henderson
Child Psychiatrist

Imagine you were having a great time catching up with your friends, laughing and joking, when suddenly an enormous pair of hands reached down, grabbed you without warning and carried you away…

Now imagine you were sitting by yourself, nearing the end of a great book when, unexpectedly, the giant pair of hands returned, carrying you away from your book while a voice instructed you that it was time to eat…

Some toddlers will naturally find transitions harder to manage than others as a result of their tem-perament. But ALL kids find transitions challenging when they are moved along from an activity in which they have been engaged. Sometimes this is expressed as frustration, crying, whingeing or defiance. And when we imagine ourselves in these situations, it’s easy to see why. Let’s face it – we’d be upset too!

So what can we do to make transitions a little easier?

The keys to minimising the upset caused by transitions are warnings, choice and consistency.

When you know that a transition is coming, let your child know by giving a warning. “It will soon be time to finish up your play and come inside.”

Or, with my own children, I say: “It’s almost time to come inside. Can you think about how you’d like your play to end and work on that ending now please?”

Offer a choice point if you think it might be helpful: “Are you ready to finish up now or would you like a couple of minutes to finish your play?”

At the transition time, be consistent. Again, offer a choice point if necessary: “It’s time to come inside now. Would you like some help to pack your play away or would you pre-fer to pack it away yourself?”

The key steps to managing transitions:

  • Warnings
  • Choice
  • Consistency

Perhaps you’re taking this approach already during transitions with your toddler. But if not, it’s worth a try. You may find it brings you more success than those ominous giant hands…

Dr. Kaylene Henderson is a medically trained Child Psychiatrist and one of Australian’s leading parenting experts. She is also a mother of three zany young children.

Kaylene shares her practical tips for parents on TV, radio, print media and with her engaged social media community. Visit ‘A Dose of Awesomeness’ to download her popular online advice packs on a range of topics including anxiety, behaviour, meltdowns, school readiness and more. To-gether, we can help our kids to become more calm, kind and resilient…what could be more awe-some?

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