By: Martin Bernstein
Transitionary periods can bring up a lot of emotions and anger in children. This often shows up with your child in big emotional outbursts – tantrums, yelling, crying, meltdowns, running around like crazy – they may not know how to express their emotions in other ways.
In my time as a Wilderness Field Guide, transitions were always a challenge for children. Smaller transitions like getting out of sleeping bags to breakfast, from breakfast to packing up camp, from packing up to hiking, from arriving at a new site to setting up camp, and from setting up camp to working on primitive skills and eventually into dinner and into bed were all situations that we needed navigate on a daily basis. Any of those little moments had the potential for major outbursts and anxiety in kids.
Giving the kids as much autonomy as possible over a situation was the best solution for managing challenging transitions. Most of the time kids get told what to do all day. Let’s face it, as adults it is easier to be directive because we think we know best. However, kids do best when they figure out their own solutions.
I was always amazed that the more I released control of how the day “should” go, the smoother things ran. The kids understood what was required to get done, and we tried to provide as much flexibility as possible throughout the day. It’s always better to get out ahead of the emotional outbursts before they happen.
Kids are more intuitive than we think. As parents I could imagine how much easier it is to just say “do this now,” or “time to move on to this,” rather than checking in and seeing what your child wants in the moment. However, offering some room to run around and be silly for a few minutes might be a good way to ease transitions - just releasing some of those emotions physically can be very helpful! Jumping jacks, dancing, setting up an obstacle course, making funny faces, there are so many ways to get out physical emotions before moving onto the next “thing.”
It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you and your child, but ultimately giving them some credit and some power often goes better than you think.
If you find yourself looking for support, talking to parents just like you can help. You Have A Village is a parent community focused on child behavioral support. If you’re interested in learning more about You Have A Village, please visit us at https://www.youhaveavillage.com/for-parents to learn more about the services and supports that we offer for parents.