Parents Can Help Ease Transitions for Kids
Do you ever feel a flash of emotion when the following happens? You are doing something you really enjoy, when – without warning – someone suddenly interrupts and forces you to stop, and instead do what they want you to do. You probably feel annoyed!
Kids dislike sudden transitions even more than adults do. And when they don’t have the coping skills to deal with their emotions, they often react by getting angry, defiant or tearful.
All kids need help with transitions. This is especially true for those who struggle with extra anxiety: between 6% and 20% of children and teens. So how can parents ease transitions?
Develop a strong routine that feels predictable and comfortable. Things will always go smoother when you discuss, prepare, review, remind and alert.
Imagine the plan is to go to the park to play with friends and have a picnic lunch, then return home. The day before, discuss the plan with your child and answer any questions they have. Then prepare: this might include choosing and packing your picnic foods and toys. The next morning over breakfast, review the plan. As you drive to the park, quickly remind them of the plan for the day. At the park, alert or warn them a few minutes before it’s time to break for lunch, then again a few minutes before it’s time to go. (Watch for natural stopping points where your child is not intensely involved in activity, so the transitions aren’t so abrupt.) If the plan suddenly changes, explain why: “The rainstorm made it too wet for a picnic, so we are going to Anna’s house instead.”
Be compassionate and respectful. Try to view transitions through your child’s eyes. Your patience and consistency will pay off when your child begins to develop their own coping skills. You’ll know you’ve made progress when – rather than having a meltdown – they reply with: “OK! Just three more minutes, please?”
As your child gets older and faces bigger transitions, adapt the routine as needed, with more emphasis on preparing. For example, before starting school the two of you might go to an open house, talk with an older friend who attends the school, and role-play. Good news about school: teachers are usually experts at easing transitions!
Read more articles about growth and development.
Prevent Diaper Rash
Diaper rash is often a simple skin irritation that can be prevented. The super-saggy, wet diapers we see toddlers wearing on TV ads are not OK for real life. Change diapers every two hours or so when baby is awake, and immediately after every poop. Clean the diaper area carefully during each change, and be sure it’s completely dry before putting on a fresh diaper.
Diaper cream or ointment can help babies with sensitive skin – just be sure it’s applied to skin that’s clean and dry. Time “airing out” with no diaper also helps.
Sometimes, a rash is caused by an infection or allergy, and requires extra treatment. Read our Dermatology Clinic’s diaper rash handout (PDF) for more information, and see your baby’s doctor for any rash that won’t go away.
Booster Seats: Understanding the Why and the When
Why do kids need booster seats, and when should they switch from a car seat to a booster seat? Seat belts are designed for adults of a certain height; they don’t safely secure kids who are shorter than 4' 9".
Booster seats are for kids over 40 pounds who are too big for a car seat, but not big enough for an adult seat belt. Booster seats raise kids up so that the lap and shoulder belts fit correctly. In fact, booster seats reduce a child’s risk of injury by 59% compared to using only a seat belt!
After age 2, keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness until they reach the maximum height or weight for that particular seat. (This information is in the instructions, and probably on a sticker on the seat itself.)
Washington state law says kids must ride in a booster seat until age 8 or until they are 4' 9" tall.
Learn more about booster seats (PDF) or come to our next car seat check.
Eat Healthy Foods and Save Money, Too
Can a family on a budget eat healthy, high-quality foods? When you plan ahead, stick to your shopping list, and follow some tried-and-true tips: yes!
Food waste is common – and costly. So keep track of what’s in your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer. If you have ingredients that need to be used (especially perishables like meat, fish or produce) plan a meal around them. Keep items like rice,
pasta, potatoes, eggs and beans on hand; these inexpensive and filling foods can really stretch your meals. Get creative! Try a website where you can enter the ingredients you have, then view recipes featuring those items.
When you need to shop, make your list at home where you can check to see what you already have and what you need. At the grocery store, follow your list. Don’t shop when you’re hungry; you’ll be more likely to buy extra “impulse” items. Fresh produce costs less when it’s in season or when the store has overstocked it. When possible, choose store brands instead of name brands. Coupons are great for items already on your list, but beware of coupons for highly processed, less-nutritional foods that tempt you to buy things you don’t need. And don’t be fooled by clever pricing, suggesting three for $6: just buy one for $2, if that’s all you need. You might also consider switching grocery stores to one known for lower prices. Saving even a few cents per item adds up in a hurry.
One more idea: by growing even a few of your own vegetables and herbs, you’ll save money and eat healthy – while doing something fun as a family!
Get more ideas for saving dollars on food and saving time (PDF).
Whenever your child is outside – even on cloudy days – be sure they wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or 30. Choose a “broad spectrum” product that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Apply it 30 minutes before going outside, and then reapply every two hours and after being in the water or sweating.
Be sure sunglasses offer 100% UV protection. Even when protected, avoid too much sun. Cover up with clothing and hats, and seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
Keep babies out of the sun as much as you can, dress them in lightweight clothing that covers their arms, legs and head, and use sunscreen on their faces and backs of hands when needed.
Read on for more summer safety tips.
Siblings fight – sometimes a lot, and sometimes fiercely. It can be exhausting to witness. What action should parents take? Remain calm and don’t take sides. Whenever possible, stay out of it unless there is danger of physical harm or the same child is always the victim. (When parents step away, the fight may end sooner for lack of an audience.)
Sibling spats can teach kids some important life skills: how to compromise and solve their own problems, and how to cope when they don’t get their way. Agree on some family rules for disagreements: we keep our hands to ourselves, we don’t call names or curse, we don’t yell. Learning to control ourselves – even when we feel angry – is another valuable life skill!
Read Sibling Rivalry to learn more about why kids fight and when to get professional help.
Preparing Your Child to Be Home Alone
When is a child ready to be home alone? There’s no set age, but in general don’t leave kids younger than 10 home alone. You know your child: if there’s any doubt, it’s best to wait.
Prepare your child. Be sure they know important phone numbers, which neighbors can help, and what to do in case of emergency. They should not answer the door, nor tell anyone that they’re home alone. Set ground rules about having friends over, and using media and the oven or stovetop.
Start with some practice runs during daylight hours: leave them alone briefly while you get groceries or take a walk nearby (with your phone handy). Each time, talk over how it went, and gradually increase the length of time you’re away.