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5 Transition Strategies to Help Kids


Learn transition strategies to help kids foster growth and independence. Explore Slumberkins for more child development insights and tips.

Change is good, or so they say. But for kids? The truth is that change can be tough. 

From going back to school after a summer of play to welcoming a new sibling into the family, changes both big and small introduce uncertainty. Sometimes, that uncertainty boils over into tantrums and stalling because they don’t know how to process these big feelings. 

As caregivers, it’s our role to help ease these transitions, transforming them from challenges into opportunities for growth. Let’s explore five positive transition strategies to support kids through times of change.

#1. Understanding the Challenge of Transitions

Even as adults, navigating through big changes can be a source of stress. The difference is that we know how to manage those emotions. Our kids are still learning that part.

So, when tackling an upcoming transition, try to imagine some of the feelings your child might be experiencing: 

    • Anxiety as they struggle to understand what changes are happening (and why).
    • Stress caused by disruptions to their regular routines.
    • A sense of losing control as their environment changes unexpectedly.
    • Sadness as they might be feeling they are losing something they love or enjoy.

By empathizing with their experience, we can take the first steps toward making an effective strategy that meets our children’s unique needs as they go through the transition process.

#2. Creating a Supportive Transition Environment

Whether change is on the horizon or already here, thoughtfully shaping the environment can provide stability and reassurance for kids. Let’s explore how you can help your young children have a smooth transition.

Establishing Predictable Routines

Consistent routines and clear expectations create much-needed structure during transitions. Where possible, try to maintain daily schedules for kids such as: 

  • Morning routines 
  • Mealtimes 
  • School prep 
  • Nightly bedtimes

Teaching kids about routines helps them focus their energy on something familiar instead of the change happening around them.

The Role of Visual and Auditory Cues

Visual and auditory cues can help ease into smaller transitions, such as from playtime to bedtime. For example, playing a specific song when it’s time to clean up toys provides a clear signal to prepare your child for the specific transition. Another example is posting colorful calendars or visual schedules, which might help them understand the sequence of activities throughout the day.

#3. Using Effective Communication Techniques

Clear communication is essential in helping children understand what to expect during transitions, big or small. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Explain upcoming transitions, especially big ones, simply and repeatedly to help reduce anxiety.
  • Highlight exciting aspects like making new friends versus just focusing on what will change.
  • Acknowledge and talk about the negative emotions that might be associated with your upcoming transition (like having to say goodbye to old friends).
  • Keep messages consistent across caregivers so information doesn’t feel confusing during the transition process.

Preview and countdown transition strategies are also effective for navigating change. Previews could involve play-acting what the first day of school might be like after they’re dropped off or simply discussing what they can expect. Combined with a visual countdown as the event gets closer, such as crossing off days on a calendar, these strategies build familiarity with the details of a new transition.

By meaningfully associating these details with a positive attitude, you can help your child see changes as exciting and fun rather than scary or frustrating. 

#4. Encouraging Independence and Participation

Getting kids involved with the transition, even in small ways, can establish a healthy sense of control and ease anxiety. This effective strategy can be as simple as letting them pick out a new backpack for school or help pack boxes before a move. Giving children an active role establishes them as an important part of the change that they’re capable of managing. 

#5. Addressing Emotional and Behavioral Responses

Often, the most common responses to big transitions are anxiety and frustration. How can caretakers help children tackle these tough feelings?

More than anything, they need you. As you take time to talk with your child, try this three-step framework:

  1. Name and normalize the new. Help your child work through the big feelings that come with change by putting a name to them. You can say something like: “Starting a new school can be scary. That must make you feel anxious.” Show them that it’s ok to feel that way.
  2. Put everything into perspective. Take a moment to help your child see that they won’t feel this way forever. Remind them of a time they faced a similar challenge and how everything got better soon.
  3. Recenter with a reality check. Above all, help your child see that they are going to be ok. Transitions take time. While it may be difficult, and they may feel anxious, there is nothing wrong with that. Show them how to take deep breaths when feelings are especially overwhelming.

Some children may express their dislike for change with tantrums, resistance, and other negative behaviors. In this case, setting boundaries with kids is important, but so is understanding the emotions driving their behavior. 

While it may not be easy, offering comfort and support through the same three-step framework can help children model healthier ways to cope with their emotions.

In some cases, your child may simply need more time to adjust. However, if they are losing sleep, can’t eat, or are lashing out, you may want to consider therapy to help them process these big feelings.

Helping Children Through Change with Slumberkins

With a little planning and a lot of love, caretakers can build transition strategies to match their kids’ unique needs—building a supportive environment through empathy, clear communication, and understanding. 

During those especially difficult times, a beloved toy or storybook can act as an anchor, providing a stabilizing effect through stormy changes. That’s why Slumberkins' social-emotional learning books and plushies use stories and imagination to build emotional intelligence for kids navigating life’s transitions.

See how Slumberkins can help your child develop resilience, self-regulation skills, and a growth mindset. With loving support, every change brings a new chance to grow.


Sources: 


Levine Academy. Brene Brown on Dealing with Change. https://www.levineacademy.org/the-levine-experience/posts/full-post/~board/newsletter/post/message-from-the-counselors-1597336669954


The Inspired Treehouse. 10 Calming Techniques and Transition Strategies for Kids. https://theinspiredtreehouse.com/transition-strategies-preventing-tantrums-during-daily-routine/

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