Easing Transitions

Today, Greysen and I left the park side-by-side in conversation.


Leaving The Park Hand-in-Hand


What’s to take note of, you ask? Leaving anywhere enjoyable can be of the utmost disappointment to Greysen.


A couple of months ago as I relayed to Greysen one morning that we would be leaving the park, she gave me a passionate “no” using her voice and body language. To escape our conversation, she started to walk up the spiral slide.  After waiting for a brief period of time, I told her that I’d help her and that it was time to go as I had already let her know. So, I picked her up.


As much as I feel supported in my parenting by my fellow moms, I can’t help but feel my face flush from her screams, and my awkward attempts to kindly but firmly help this flailing human being follow through. I spoke calmly as I carried her to the car, but she cried the whole time.


Though I felt I had done my best, I felt very self-aware. In the very least, I  questioned what else I could be doing to ease this transition from playground to home. Our friends watched as I tried to follow through without promises of easing her disappointment.


Leaving the park never involves the use of ultimatums, bribes, or threats. Yes, I absolutely think Greysen would have hopped right into the car had I offered her a snack, but I do not consider that a reasonable tool because it does not help her develop the skills she needs to learn to cooperate and cope with feelings of disappointment or frustration.


Guiding and supporting Greysen as she matures and grows is a challenging and often attention-grabbing role. I’m now becoming accustomed to this role, of being questioned and questioning myself as I learn who I am as a parent, as well as who she is.


I understand her perspective that leaving the park is disappointing. As I allow my daughter to lap in the emotion that certainly seems to come over her like a tidal wave, I’m providing an emphatic and consistent response that I expect in time to help her wade through these very overwhelming emotions.


To help her move through these feelings when we move from one place to another, I try to do the following:


  1. Preparing her to leave. A verbal warning, meaning I simply tell her that we are going soon.
  2. Waiting for a good time. If there is no natural break in her play, I have on occasion we used a timer as a reminder.  When the timer rings, she is more often than not ready to go.
  3. Being playful and using humor.
  4. Finding the next thing to look forward to. This is distinct from bribing. “We are going home for lunch. Would you like to help cut some grapes for Moon when we get home?”
  5. Validating her feelings. This was the one key element that I was missing that day at the park, but happened to come home and read this on Janet Lansbury’s blog. The following day we went to the park again. I confirmed her feelings, telling her that I understood that she was disappointed we were leaving, but that her sister needed to sleep. She was still hugely saddened by our leaving, but this additional step gave me the confidence that I was doing all I could to help her.
  6. Following through and being firm if need be. Balancing the transition by allowing her time to adjust to the idea of leaving, but not drawing the departure out.


Do you have any other steps that help your child move through their day?  I’d love to hear about them.


4 thoughts on “Easing Transitions

  1. Tal has always had a hard time with transitions. So, even as an infant we prepared him for each transition by saying bye bye to everything, from food to playgrounds to toys. This act was very amusing to my non-parent friends but it has always served us well. Now that he’s older we say bye bye to some things and often give him a long drawn out, “last one. No more. This is the last (food, activity, etc.) before transitioning him into the next task. It works well and I think minimizes the number of tantrums.

    1. That’s great that you have such insight into Tal and his temperament. I used to do the same saying good bye to things when she was younger on occasion but did not keep it up. I wonder what she’d think of that it now.

  2. I often use multiple warnings (or rather, preparatory comments). “We will be leaving in ten minutes” then “we will be leaving in 5 minutes” and then “in 2 minutes, it will be time to get back in the stroller and go”. I rarely meet with big resistance when I do this with the kids I care for. I also make sure (for my own sanity) to leave plenty of lag time, in case the actual getting into the stroller or finding the toys or whatever takes longer than I expect it to. Which it usually does! That way I can usually avoid having to resort to moving them against their will. But, if after all the preparation I encountered a kid who was in meltdown over our departure, I’d do exactly what you did! And yes, I would tell them that I understood that it sucked, that s/he felt mad and sad, and that they didn’t have to like it, but unfortunately this is what has to happen right now. Thanks for the blog post!

    1. Sarah, thank you so much for the term preparatory comments. So helpful in more accurately describing what I am trying to do. I think giving more lag time is another place I can offer her more support. As well as being better at anticipating her younger sister’s needs which regularly impacts our day together. Thank you for the encouragement!

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