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Helping Your Toddler with Transitions

Toddlers and transitions can be like oil and water: they just don’t mix well. Here you will learn effective ways to make your next transition from the playground, grandma’s house or the local pool as smooth as possible.

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Many parents of young children find themselves in a situation where it is time to leave an event or home but leaving is the farthest thing from the child’s mind. All too often, a battle ensues after which both sides of the war are left feeling battered and bruised. If you find yourself struggling with this issue on a regular basis, here are some tips to help you make your transitions easier on everyone involved.

First, talk to your child about his or her difficulty leaving places. Do this when there is no upcoming transition in sight. Out of context, your child may not have much to say. Don’t let this dissuade you from pursuing the conversation, however. You can problem solve, talk about feelings, and even act out an appropriate transition.

Second, employ a transitional object. A transitional object is something that the child can take with her to ease the separation. Would she like to take a stuffed animal that belongs to her friend to bring back next time? (make sure you check with the child and her mom first before offering this). Would she like to take a picture of her favorite spot at the place you visited so she can look at it later? Allowing your child to participate in this process will help her have something to anticipate when she gets home.

Third, give her appropriate control. Let her carry the keys to the car and unlock it for you. Give her responsibilities that are appropriate for her age but which give her a sense of purpose and importance. Taking her mind off of what she is going to miss and placing it on something she is going to gain can help ease the pain of the transition.

Finally, take action. Even if this issue is an ongoing dilemma for your child, it is most likely a stage that your child will soon outgrow. In the meantime, you may have to make some adjustments. Can you be the family to host the majority of play dates? Cancelling the next event is a logical consequence for a particularly bad transition. Remind your child that good transitions will enable her to participate in all the fun events and activities she enjoys outside the home. Do not bribe or coax with rewards or treats. You will be creating a pattern that your child will be unlikely to relinquish any time soon.

Transitions are a part of life that can’t be avoided – they happen multiple times a day. As your child practices his implementation of this new skill, you can use some of the ideas here to help him along on his journey.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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