Helping Children with Transitions
Many children who have experienced trauma are triggered by transitions. This can be difficult to help a child manage because transitions are a part of everyday life in ways big and small. In responding to transition triggers, a child may show behaviors that range from mild protesting to a severe meltdown. Fortunately, there are many ways that caregivers can help predict and prepare for these circumstances to help a child have an easier time moving from one task to the next. Over time, children may come to learn the mechanisms that work for them, ultimately decreasing the length and severity of behavioral responses and increasing their ability to make positive behavioral changes. Feeling successful in this way is a powerful tool to helping kids heal from trauma and build positive relationships. During a time when transitions are more constant than ever, this is an invaluable gift to give to your child. Below are some suggestions on how to help a child build confidence in addressing their transition triggers.
Create a routine: Think about the main components that make up the child’s day and have a predictable structure in place. Organized activities, such as bedtime, are great to have in place for all ages. As your child progresses to be reassured by this structure, understand that maintaining consistency is key. For example, children who have experienced trauma may not be able to developmentally understand why one night they got a later bedtime and the next they did not.
Use timers and reminders: Let the child know that you are going to set a timer for 10 minutes prior to transitioning to the next task, let them know what will happen when the timer goes off, and give them reminders as the countdown gets closer to ending. This allows them to mentally and emotionally prepare to wrap up their current task and prepare for the next.
Add some fun: Create a song for mundane activities like getting dressed, brushing teeth, or washing hands. Songs can be effective in training a child’s memory and making a task a little more fun.
Create a visual schedule: The possibilities are endless with visual calendars. Print and cut out clip art displaying various activities and assemble Velcro to the cutouts and to a blank laminated piece of paper. Every morning when the child wakes up, lay out the visuals together to help prepare the child for what the day is going to look like. If any activities need to be rearranged, provide ample notice and allow the child to shift their calendar on their own to reflect any changes.
Give all the praise: Cheer them on as they master new circumstances and coping skills, either verbally or through small tangible rewards like stickers or small treats. Be specific with your praise and make a big deal about your child showing success in a task. For example, ‘I really like how you got dressed right away, now we have more time to play.’
How can Support Team Members help children learn to handle transitions?
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