Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (July 12, 2018)
I grew up with a lot of transitions in life. I had many stabilities like my family but I moved countries, moved schools and without Facebook and Instagram back in the day, moving also meant losing friends and losing touch with people I had grown a relationship with. Going through transitions was challenging and it was difficult to move away from one place to head to another.
My now 2-year old son hasn’t had to face such large life transitions like moving countries or losing friends and making new ones but I think on a small scale, he’s learning to handle daily transitions and ones that he has very little control over. In his daily schedule, he has to transition from meal time to learning time, play time to bath time, reading time to bed time and each transition is challenging in its own way.
And that’s only for a young child. In classrooms, it’s the same way where we have to handle transitions. To transition from active game to reading time, reflection time to discussion time, recess time to writing time. All these transitions can be challenging for children.
Some children find it particularly difficult to handle transitions and may exhibit itself in outbursts, frustration, being stubborn about wanting his own way, not willing to move onto the next activity or carrying the same demeanour of one activity onto the next.
As an adult, it seems simple to move from recess time and to calm down for writing time but it’s a lot less simple for a young child. As a mother and teacher, I’ve found that some things help a child handle transitions whether at home, out or in the classroom. Below are my 4 tips for handling transition times:
1. Prep time
It’s not what happens during transitions but before it that matters most. For example, my son takes a while to warm up to new environments so I will speak to him before going somewhere and let him know what he’ll see, whom he’ll meet and what I expect him to do. It could just be in the lift on the way to a friend’s house or could be a couple days before me flying off for a business trip and telling him what happen during the time I’m away. Giving children prep time helps them to look ahead and mentally prepare.
2. Show the schedule
We do this is the classroom where it helps students know what is ahead. Instead of asking ‘when is break time?’ or ‘when do we go home?’, having a simple schedule laid out helps them to visually see what activity happens after the other and what they can expect. At home, it could be drawing up a simple schedule of the routine items after school.
3. Role play
I’ve found this helpful in preparing children for social situations. It’s one thing to say “you’re going to my friend’s house’ but it’s another to say whom they will meet there and what you’d like for your child to do in saying hi, sharing toys or whatever else may be. Doing role plays help prepare for the social situations that may be faced. Often I”ve said to my son “we’re going to see lots of people later and they are mummy’s friends. Please wave your hand and say hello. Can you show me how you do that? Great! Let’s try that again later with mummy’s friends.”
Abrupt change is hard for anyone. If you try to get me out of the house when I’m in the middle of my favourite TV show or telling me that I have to get out of bed earlier than I had expected – don’t expect me to be a happy camper! Giving a fore warning of the remaining time before moving into next transition is helpful. In classrooms, it’s giving students a time limit on activities and a countdown until time is up. At home, it could be using a sand timer to show how much time is left before clean up time.
And with all the above, the most difficult thing is having the time to do it and the patience to execute. But the outcomes will be worth it if we invest in it now because we will have calmer, happier kids which likely means calmer, happier parents!