Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Slow transitions

The biggest challenge we've faced since ending daycare is managing transitions. The kid is a notoriously slow adjuster. I expect that it will take her ten minutes to put on her shoes to go outside. That's quite normal for her. After preschool or daycare, leaving took at least 7 minutes and often over 10. It just takes her a huge amount of time to get ready for the next thing. 

We made this nice schedule for her and planned out our days. We built in transition time. It has totally crashed around us, as usual worst of all at bedtime. The routine is fought tooth and nail and with stomping & shouting NO! Seriously. Us announcing it's time to brush teeth gets a flailing no-fest. Every time. I have some ideas about what's wrong in the routine and we're going to try these fixes so we can have our lives back from the non-stop tantrums. I should add that once she is convinced to try the new activity, she refuses to stop, so it isn't a refusal to change activities, it's a refusal to change activities when she isn't totally ready. As the 2.5 hour bedtime marathon of slow transitions and infinite chances isn't possible most nights, we have to reframe this into something less awful. 

Step 1: enlarge the schedule and include clock pictures. We have a wall calendar that lists her fun thing to do each day but the schedule is on a single piece of paper high on the wall. With a larger schedule, she can see the clock indicates it is time to move on and we can give 10 and 5 minute warnings. Bonus: learning about clocks and telling time. 

Step 2: vocalize the steps to transition. We have been saying, "Now it's time to play outside." This will extend to the 10 minute "new thing" warning and 5 minute "clean up" warning. We adults are going to say the steps to transition out loud for her, possibly in a silly song so there is no mystery about what is happening. The TV goes off, the toys go in the bin, try the potty, walk to the mud room, put on your shoes, go outside to play. Hopefully that relieves some of the stress caused by transitions. 

Step 3: enforce rest time. An overtired kid is one who melts down at everything. Les tired=less tantrums=happier everyone. 

Step 4: offer more beverages. We mostly expect the kid to get drinks if she's thirsty and I think this is a mistake. If we offer them, she will stay hydrated and healthier and hopefully happier. Crankiness comes from physical discomfort as well as emotional discomfort. Snacks and meals are scheduled and I'm all right with that, but we need to offer drinks so she realizes she's thirsty. 

Step 5: help her deal with emotions with words rather than kicking and throwing things. Kid with an enormous vocabulary gets frustrated and just chucks things at me or tosses herself on the ground? No more. We will spend some time every day going over the words for feelings and why it matters if she uses them. 

Step 6: introduce new things repeatedly and several days in a row. Last week we went walking at the nature center one day, then to the interpretive center the next day and the kid was scared of the whole place. She hid from the guy behind the desk by bending in half. I convinced her to walk inside to get a drink with me, we met friends, and she wasn't afraid by the time we left. She only touched posters and no specimens or animals (petting the snake was out of the question quite far) the first day. Next day we went to the center again and she touched stuff at least a little bit and had a good time there and in her telling about it (she claimed to have fun the first day, hiding and all). The next day, she wanted to go pet the snake. Not just to fondle bear skulls or crawl into the replica bison, no, she had come so far as to want to pet the snake. She didn't actually pet it once it was out of its tank, but still. Huge strides. Repeating that trip 4 days running gave her time to adapt and stop being so scared. 

Step 7: no adult topics within earshot. I think the kid sometimes gets wound up about things she hears us discuss and adult topics need to leave her radar. We are broke but mostly that doesn't impact her so she doesn't need to hear any discussions about money outside of her allowance. 

Step 8: move chore chart completion to the morning. At night it just isn't working. We get snarled up with getting the baby to sleep or keeping her asleep through tantrums and the chart gets lost so the kid doesn't get consistent reinforcement to do her jobs. 

Any pointers on how to handle a kid who hates transitions? Has anything worked for you?

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad to read that someone else's child is also slow to transition. D is pretty good about most transitions except brushing his teeth and getting dressed in the mornings, and repeating myself 8 billion times drives me up the wall. At night I'm better about setting the timer and giving the verbal updates, but in the morning, all bets are off.