The brain of children under age 5 is not yet fully developed. For this reason, young children under the age of 5 have difficulties regulating themselves and their emotions. Young children also lack a sense of time, only knowing what they experience in the moment. These developmental obstacles often make changes in life and routine challenging for both you and your child. In addition, difficulties with transition are only made harder for children on the spectrum or for children who have diagnosis like ADHD. Listed below are four ways to help support any child to navigate through times of transition.
1. Establish a healthy attachment relationship
2. Establish an on going routine for your child
3. Be patient with your child during times of transition
4. Hold steady boundaries with your child during emotional moments
Establish a healthy attachment relationship
Early attachment relationships help foster a child’s ability to become more independent. A strong attachment relationship helps a child learn how to depend on others which in turn helps a child to feel safe in the world. Helping a child to feel safe and protected by their caregivers offers children the capacity to try new things, which often aid in the process of transitioning and changing.
Establish an on going routine for your child
Children respond to rhythm and doing activities, which they have already mastered. Once children have become proficient at one thing then they are more ready/willing and able to explore a new task. With that said, putting routines in place for your child will set the foundation for helping them to navigate change. Once routines have been long established (i.e. waking up, brushing teeth, eating breakfast etc.) then a child will learn the foundations for transition and change in the future.
Be patient with your child during times of transition
Not wanting to give up playing with their toys during a time of transition can often lead a child towards an emotional meltdown. Being available to a child during his/her meltdown will inevitably help a child to feel safe and allow him to understand that his emotions can be tolerated. This will in turn serve to help your child regulate his emotions in the future.
Hold steady boundaries with your child during emotional moments
Children and adults alike often try to run away from uncomfortable feelings, One way to run away from feelings is to try to accumulate things that we think will make us happy. A child may try to negotiate with a parent as a means to accumulate things and as a means to delay. As a parent it is important to not be enticed to bargain with your child in order to avoid certain reactions. Being emotionally present with your child while having firm boundaries will help your child to learn that her emotions are okay. Change is also a natural part of life that can be tolerated and handled well.
Marilee Hartling RN, MFT | Infant & Child Development Specialist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.