Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Transitions for Toddlers

One of the things I admire the most about my dear son is his ability to become completely immersed in his activities.  Whether it be trains, painting, role playing or even his early morning nursing sessions, he loves what he does and expects us to be fully present as well.  We adults try to reclaim this ability to focus in our jobs and schooling.  And many of us attempt to become more aware in the moment by training through meditation.  Ahhhh, to be a child again, experiencing everything in this world with intense wonder!

Of course this one-pointed awareness has it's issues, at least with a toddler.  He does not like to get his diaper changed because it means he needs to stop what he's doing.  I can't talk about breakfast when he's nursing in the morning because all he can think about is momma's milk and he get's upset if he thinks I'll take it away.  And he's definitely not a child that can be whisked away from errand to errand in the car.  We have learned to adapt and to plan carefully around this tender being.

So, when we HAVE to do something, like that dreaded diaper change or going to an appointment, here are a few things that help our family.  Basically, we try to make ALL activities fun and interesting.

  • We outline the day and tell our son about it in small blocks of time.  It is overwhelming for him, I am sure, when I tell him everything we will do in the day.  Time for children is more circular, not linear as we adults experience it.  So, they will not keep track of what is coming next.  After we finish an activity I usually say something like, "That was fun!  Now it's time for us to do ___ ."  
  • We try to stay calm and cheerful.  My son picks up on anxious behavior and become anxious as well.  Does your child do the same?
  • Sing, sing a song.  Sing out loud!  Sing out strong!  I am the world's best singer in my child's eyes & ears, though I can barely carry a tune.  He learns best from songs and rhymes and these are welcome distractions when getting dressed or changing diapers.  
  • Other distractions - toys, books, stories we make up ourselves.
  • We "fly" to the car.  This only works if we are able to carry him, of course.
  • My husband has found his calling as "Dr. Daddy, DDS."  He creates a scene in the bathroom where my son sits in the dental chair (toilet) and asks him about his day, what he just ate, comments on his teeth, etc.  My son LOVES getting his teeth brushed by Dad.  He has had cleanings at a dental office already, so can relate to this experience and it's fun for him.
  • WE LET OUR CHILD FEEL VALUED BY HELPING OUT.  THIS IS SO HUGE THAT  I'M TYPING IT ALL IN CAPS!  HA HA!  I'M ALWAYS SPECIFIC IN HOW MY SON CAN HELP ME OUT.  I POINT OUT WHEN HE'S NOT BEING HELPFUL AND WHAT HE CAN DO INSTEAD.  Transitions to mealtimes used to be hard for us until I started recruiting my son's help in the kitchen.  He doesn't have to prepare the whole meal.  Just giving him one important thing to do makes him glow with pride.
  • We try not to over-schedule.  We usually don't go out in the car more than once a day.  It is not necessary for us.  We only shop at one grocery store and do that twice a week.  We usually have plenty of time for meals and rest.  For the most part, our life is simple and we are relaxed and happy.

Certainly a child must learn that our needs are equally as important and learning to be patient is an important skill.  However, in our family, it does not work to yell and force our child to be accommodating.  When I have become angry, I calm down, apologize, and explain my needs.  When this happens, he does seem to yield more, but I think the apology and seeing the pain and desperation in my eyes is what gets to him - definitely not the anger.  

I imagine this gets easier with age & maturity.  For now, we are joined at the heart, not so much in our minds since his is still developing.  If we relate to our children from the heart and try to treat every situation, even the dull and regular, as something wonderful, then that is what they will experience.

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