November 13, 2019

Supporting Young Children During Transitions

Writing for Child Mind Institute, Katherine Martinelli recently authored “How Can We Help Kids With Transitions,” highlighting key tips and advice for parents and caregivers seeking to support their young children.


When it comes to transitions–to kindergarten, a new program, or a new routine–young children often struggle. When children whine, stall, meltdown, or have a tantrum, some parents and caregivers aren’t sure where to turn. In an effort to empower these caregivers, Katherine Martinelli authored an article highlighting eight tips for supporting young children during the transition process, mentioning that these supports may be especially important for children with ADHD, anxiety, autism, or sensory sensitivities.

Tips & Advice

    • Create Routines
      Setting routines for daily activities such as bedtime, taking a bath, or putting away toys can play a big role in reassuring children during such transitions.
    • Preview and Count Down
      In addition to routines, providing a clear outline of what the day will entail can help children adequately prepare for transitions to come. Caregivers can do this in the morning with their children, paired with countdowns throughout the day. Before each transition, give your child a timeframe and description of what’s going to happen next.
    • Give It a Soundtrack
      Songs are a great tool to encourage routines and ease transitions. By creating songs for things such as cleaning up, bedtime, and getting ready to leave, caregivers establish a recognizable, fun indicator that a transition is happening. This tip works especially well with young children.
    • Visual Cues
      Some children may benefit from visual clues, such as a chart or poster with drawings that explain what to expect or the steps of a transition. Parents and caregivers can easily reference these visual cues during the transition to help walk children through the process.
    • Get Their Attention
      Many parents and caregivers know that simply yelling at children from across the room will only lead to frustration for both parties. Instead, caregivers are encouraged to make a connection with the child to ensure the child is giving their full attention. This could mean eye contact, a hand on the shoulder, sitting next to them, or asking them to repeat back what has been said.
    • Use Rewards
      Reward systems can be beneficial in schools and at home, especially during the early phases of a new transition. Using rewards such as stickers, snacks, or a point system can be effective in supporting positive behaviors. With this, the reward system can be phased out as a child gets closer to mastering the transition.
    • Implement Appropriate Consequences
      If a child exhibits negative behaviors during a transition, ignore the negative behavior rather than escalating the situation. However, if a child is egregiously misbehaving, parents and caregivers should implement “appropriate consequences for that behavior that makes the child understand that behavior is off-limits.”
    • Praise Good Transitioning
      Praise and recognition play a vital role in reinforcing positive behaviors. Martinelli recommends that caregivers be specific in their praise, following up with a reward when appropriate.

More Information

For more tips and advice on supporting children during transitions, read the full article on the Child Mind Institute website.