It is our responsibility to facilitate transitions and help children adjust to the upcoming task. Perhaps I can offer an illustration to make things clearer. Imagine a child completely distracted in play at around 0800pm. He wanders in his imagination as he pretends to explore a jungle, fighting off the toy tigers and lions which somehow take life in his mind. I wish I was able to possess a photograph device that could capture the activity which is going on in the child’s brain to show you how impressively active this would be. Then, suddenly and without any advise comes the bed time call. The child, is expected to pick up and leave to bed, preferably quietly and obediently climbing to bed and doze off to sleep. I imagine many parents smiling as they read this part because we all know that is not how things go!
And we are naive to believe they can be so. Not because it is impossible, but because an important part is missing in this story; transition time. Inasmuch as adults require a brief space in time to adjust to the new scene, so do children. And this is not only valid for bedtime. Transitions happen everywhere in our lives. For children getting back to the class environment, with its rules of quietness and attentiveness, requires a major shift in attitude from the more relaxed state of break time. Words elude me, but it is like the brain that is good for the break time is not good for class. It is the same brain, but the mind states are different. Providing a period of adjustment helps children to transition into the new environment more serenely, thus avoiding (or at least reducing) some of the rebellious complaints. For example, if we are getting ready to go to sleep, tell your child that in ten minutes play time will be over because we are going to bed. Use a timer to help your child tell the time. Do a bed time routine, which may involve storytelling, washing your teeth, getting in your pyjamas, etc. This would readjust the mind frame as it will calm the hype down and set a slower tempo which helps the child relax. Even our parenting approach can benefit from this piece of information. I often mention the traffic light approach with parents I work with. I will dedicate my next blog to go into more detail about this.
Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness. He offers parent coaching and social work sessions. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.