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Managing Transitions and Tantrums: Simple Tips & Tricks

Children and adults alike typically do well with routine and structure within their day.  If this routine or norm is disrupted and a child has a hard time adjusting or regulating, this can sometimes be expressed via behaviors or a perceived tantrum.  Let’s talk about a few ways that we as caregivers can help ease these transitional periods and share effective coping and regulation strategies with children! 

Let them know the plan!

Preparing a child for an upcoming transition is one way to facilitate adjusting to what is next.  Using verbal cues (2 more minutes!), an auditory or visual timer, or even a visual picture board to let them know one activity is almost at an end and it is time to move on to what is next.  

Try to keep calm! 

Children are very perceptive and will often pick up on our tone and react based on that.  The more calm you are able to stay within a tantrum, the more effective you can be with helping an upset child calm down as well.  

If they are having a hard time, talk it out with them! 

It is important for children to know that their emotions or frustrations are heard and understood by their caregivers.  Let your child know it is ok to be mad/sad/upset about being all done with something they love, then redirect and reinforce the plan and what activity is next.  For example: I understand you are feeling upset that we turned the TV off and I know it can be hard because you love that show, but we are all done with TV and now it is time to get shoes on!

Give choices! 

Some tantrums and behaviors can be rooted in a child’s drive to assert their independence.  An effective way to avoid a power struggle is to offer two controlled and appropriate choices.  This gives the child a sense of control and independence while also facilitating the transition and appropriate engagement in the next task.  For example: It is time to get ready for school.  Do you want to brush your teeth or change clothes first?  Both options presented are directed by the adult, but allowing the child to choose helps ease their drive for independence.  

– CJ Netherton, Occupational Therapist