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Making the Hardest Parts Easier: Transitions from Big to Small

Daylight savings has become more confusing since giving birth. For as long as I can remember, I’ve run on industrial time. 6 o’clock is 6 o’clock, even if they have moved it an hour.

With a baby, though, I run on horticultural time. We follow the sun and the stars. I’m not sure when 7 o’clock is, but I know when the sun comes up. Everything in my schedule has been suddenly moved forward an hour. I was an early riser at 6:15 a.m. but now I’m a normal riser at 7.

My partner’s work schedule has changed to accommodate this weird quirk of certain industrialized nations. As have all of our activities.

This transition is frustrating like they all are.

Generating Energy

We transition several times a day from sleep to wake, from calm to calamity, from place to place. These can be very draining on our child and on us.

In High-Performance Habits, author Brendon Burchard details five things that effective people do better than the rest of us. He cites a ton of research on why these habits are so useful and gives you practical advice on how to implement them in your own life.

Of note today is habit number two. Burchard finds that extraordinary people generate energy.

Instead of letting their energy be leeched throughout the day, top performers find a way to create and retain as much as energy as possible.

In a revelation that will surprise no one, this means transitioning smoothly because people feel the most drained by adjusting. Things like:

  • Waking up in the morning
  • Leaving for work and school
  • Coming home
  • Bedtime

sometimes ask more of us than we feel we can give.

Giving Your Brain Space

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What extremely effective people have learned is how to transition gracefully. Regardless of how smart, fast, and competent you are, your brain needs time to switch tasks. You need time to organize your thoughts, to release your feelings, to re-center.

Try to find spaces and ways during your day to help your brain and body understand that one part of your day has ended and another one starting.

Do this for yourself and your child. While it might look different for the two of you, it is something you both need.

If you can recharge yourself before your child, you’ll be able to parent from the place that you want to.

Here are a few ways to give yourself a break and generate energy before trying to get kiddo up to speed:

  • Resetting the Room: Before leaving the room to move onto the next portion of your day, make sure everything is in the place you’d like it to be. This helps keep your house tidy, lets your brain know you are finished with that activity, can be used to prime the space for the next time you enter it.

As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “Whenever you organize a space for its intended purpose, you are priming it to make the next action easy…Want to draw more? Put your pencils, pens, notebooks, and drawing tools on top of your desk, within easy reach. Want to exercise? Set out your workout clothes, shoes, gym bag, and water bottle ahead of time.”

By resetting the room to what you’ll need it for next, you are making you’re a transition easier for your future self, too.

  • Meditate: You do not need to set an alarm or open up 10% Happier. You don’t need to clear your mind or sit on a meditation pillow. All you need to do is give yourself a quick break. You can pick how many breaths you are going to take or pick a cue in your environment to decide how long to meditate for.

You might take ten deep breaths (inhale through the nose for two seconds, hold for two seconds, exhale through the mouth for four seconds.) Or you might think, “I am going to sit here and meditate until I hear a whimper of frustration from my toddler.”

  • Visualization: Take a moment to close your eyes. Picture a big To-Do list that you have written (or if you have one, walk over to it!) Check off what you’ve just accomplished.

Now, visualize yourself transitioning smoothly. You help your children wrap up       this portion of the day. You are successfully accomplishing the next thing on your list. You and baby are both contended, smiling, doing what needs to get done.

  • Movement: A big part of what you are doing when trying to transition is to release the built-up tension brought on by focus and labor. Movement will help get rid of some of this. You can do some simple stretching or ten burpees. Whatever suits your desires and abilities.

Staying in the Green

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Once you feel rejuvenated and ready to roll, then you can help transition your child.

When children don’t transition well, they often end up in the red zone (having a tantrum) or the blue zone (shutting down). If we can keep them in the green zone, the go-zone, the ready to grow, contribute, and explore zone, then their days will get easier. This is a habit they can bring with them into adulthood.

There are a few things you can do before transitions to help make them smoother, and some you can do when the change actually occurs.

Before a Transition:

  • Routine: We’re a big fan of routines here at Alert Authentic Mindful. Giving yourself and your children a routine makes life easier. For transitions, a routine means they have a loose idea about the structure of their day in their heads. This makes change and uncertainty easier to bear.

 

  • Nightly prep: Tell your child what is going to happen before the day comes. You know what is going to happen with your day. Why not clue them in on it?

 

You don’t have to detail each five-minute increment. X will happen, followed by Y. Think where the transition points are. That’s what they need to be aware of, not which toys they’re going to play with.

During a Transition:

  • Warnings: Give your child some time to prepare for changes. Keep in mind their developmental level. You can set an alarm, show them a clock, or tell them the series of events. “Soon, mom will stand up and get her purse, then…” You can also give your child some choice: “Pick one more thing to do before we leave this house/room/playground.”

 

  • Movement: Just like you, your child has been building up tension in their body while they participated in an activity. This could be from socializing, focusing, or using self-control to act appropriately in a setting. Movement can help to release some of that tension and prepare them for the next thing. You can ask them to join you for your stretches or burpees. Consider doing a special parent-child yoga pose help them feel connected to you during this rough time.

 

  • Connection: The name of the game when talking about discipline for children is connection. If you want them to follow your lead, they must feel like you are on their team. In order to do this, use or come up with a connection ritual. This can be something very simple like a 10-second hug which helps to soothe fears and releases serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—chemicals that make us feel connected and happy. You can have a special kiss, a special dance, or a special song to feel in line with each other.

Mastering transitions will make your days significantly easier. Tweak any of these ideas to meet the specific needs of your family. Zander doesn’t need nightly prep—at 9 months old, he relies much more heavily on our routine. Some children actually do worse with a warning, seeing them as an opportunity to stop enjoying themselves right away and start complaining—in which case, maybe a quick sweep off the feet would do better.

Be aware of where sensitivities lie and hone your transition routine. With enough practice and forethought, going from one activity to the other over time will only become a problem when no one has had enough sleep.