Improving Transitions by Previewing

Improving Transitions by Previewing

Do you ever worry about what you need to do next? Is it going to be hard or unpleasant? Maybe it is a long drive on unfamiliar roads.  Maybe it is a form to fill out or a phone call to make. Worrying about what they need to do next happens for children too. This can make transitions a challenge. Giving advance notice can help, as discussed in the last post.

Another good way to help children negotiate transitions is by previewing. This means helping the child understand the steps involved. When they know what will be happening and what is expected of them, they can begin to feel more confident that they can manage.

When transitions are going well, saying something as simple as “get your shoes and coat and meet me at the door” is enough to orient the child to what is expected.

At other times, some children may need more specific information. “We’ll be leaving in 10 minutes. Here’s what is going to happen. First, you can finish what you are doing now for a few minutes. Then find your blue shoes and put them on. Get your coat. If you need help finding your coat, call me. Put your coat on and fasten it. Walk to the door. Sit on the step and wait for me. You can read your book while you wait. When I am ready, you can open the door for both of us. We’ll walk to the car together. You can get in first and I’ll fasten your seat belt. Then I’ll get in and we’ll start going.”

It may seem tedious, but it is a big help to some children. It is especially helpful if there are many steps or for children who tend to be inattentive or anxious and inflexibility. Step by step preparation reduces anxiety and improves focus.

Sometimes a picture schedule helps a child truly ‘visualize’ what will be happening during a transition. This is most worth the effort for repeating events. For example, the transition out of the house in the morning might show pictures of watching TV, turning off TV, putting on shoes, getting bookbag, going out the door, and walking to bus stop or getting into car, perhaps ending with a happy wave goodbye. Some children like to check off each item as they complete it. Children often enjoy helping create the picture schedule. Pictures can be as elaborate or simple as you wish. You can take actual photos of each step, then arrange them in order. Stick figures work too. And of course there are pictures on the internet!

So even though previewing takes a bit of time, it can make life go more smoothly during transitions. And it sends the message that your child can cope with these everyday changes!


Blog Disclaimer:  Please be aware that this blog contains general information. It is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as treatment or a recommendation or prescription for a particular child. If you have questions about your child, please talk to your pediatrician or seek other professional services.