How can I help my toddler navigate transitions more easily?
Transitions are all about control—the control of anxiety—and anxiety comes from change. Knowing this equation will give you the power to assist your child even if he is showing anxiety during the transition to an activity that he enjoys. It is important to tell him in advance what his schedule is going to be. For example: "First we are going to eat breakfast, then we are going to get into the car, then we are going to swim lessons. After swim we will eat lunch," etc. The fact that he knows what is coming up will help to aid in the transition. Allow him to choose the order of activities at certain times so he can feel more in control. And if possible, allow for basic functions such as eating, bathing and sleeping to have a set schedule. When these events take place at the same time each day, it allows him predictability in his day and a framework he can count on. This helps him build trust in the system, trust in you and ultimately trust in himself.
When it comes to transitions, give him prompts so that he can prepare. For example: "In 10 minutes, we are going to take a bath"; "After this commercial, we are going to eat"; "As soon as you're done eating, we are going to the park." Get him to confirm that he understands what you have said by repeating it back to you, and ask him if he agrees. If he is not in agreement, then compromise—when possible—and let him have some input and control in the process. The goal is to give him the ability to master his surroundings and his feelings, which help to build the foundations of trust, confidence, self-reliance and self-esteem.