Rituals and routines are an important part of a preschooler’s life, helping to provide predictability and security. As a result, moms like Circle of Moms member Julie T. often wonder what to do when routines get shaken up. “How important is [it] to keep them in a pretty similar schedule during the summer?” she asks. The truth is, change is often difficult for preschoolers. But whether your child is facing a new sleep schedule, school, sibling, or home, these five tips from Circle of Moms members will help you both make a smoother transition.
1. Explain the Change in Advance
When a change is something you can anticipate, such as a new sibling or home, helping your child express his feelings about it ahead of time can make him less apprehensive. That’s exactly how Amber M. helped her four-year-old daughter become excited about the imminent arrival of her baby brother. “I bought a book called I'm a Big Sister and read it to her,” she relays. “When my son arrived I wanted to make sure that my daughter knew that she was still important.”
2. Take a Gradual Approach
Another tactic to employ when approaching a major change is to ease into the new routine. Before starting preschool, for instance, Kelina G. suggests trying out a daycare situation or playgroup where the moms can stay. “I think it's a great way to teach kids about structure and school while mom and dad are still around,” she says. “Then when they start school, it's not so much of a culture shock. My son loves going now and couldn't care less whether or not I'm there as he knows all the teachers and what’s going on.” Krystle J., meanwhile, plans to accompany her child into the classroom during the early days to make the transition less stressful for her child and herself: “I was thinking a couple of days because I know she is going to cry so much.”
Circle of Moms member Marybeth S. took similarly slow approach when she prepared herself to re-enter the workforce. Since should would have to wake her daughter around 6am, much earlier that she was used to, she purposefully started waking her daughter up earlier about a month-and-a-half before her start date. “I didn’t want it to be a sudden change for her.”
3. Keep a Routine Even During School Breaks
When a preschooler is used to going to school, transitioning into vacations and summertime needs a little strategizing from mom. Charlotte L. recommends trying to recreate the school-year routines during summer: “I noticed that my kids do well as long as there is some type of schedule and they know what it is going to happen during the day,” she says about the summer break from preschool. “At the beginning of the season, I ask them what they would like to do this summer. Then, we come up with a workable schedule that allows for days out and days home. I build in a lot of free time so it's not overly scheduled, but we still have regular mealtimes and bedtimes.”
Similarly, Sia W. extends the school routine during the summer for her five-year-old, explaining that the home routine eases the transition back to school. “We have art activities, fun times at the library, pool and playground. These are all free things keep us organized and busy.” Kristi does the same: “I keep my daughter in daycare part time during the summer only because she has a hard time adjusting back,” says Kristi. ”She's slow to warm up to begin with so it's just easier to keep her sort of in her routine.”
4. Be Consistent and Patient
When facing a change in nap time routine, many Circle of Moms members share that patience and consistency are key. Sarah S., for example, told her three-year-old son that he still needed to lie in his bed even if he is awake. "What I've done (and he still naps some days and not others) is put him down at the same time every day," she says. "If he starts to flip out, later I remind him that he made the choice not to nap."
Similarly, when Tracy B. was transitioning her preschooler onto a new sleep routine, her gradual approach “took patience,” but eventually her three-year-old started sleeping twelve hours at night and readily giving up her naps.
5. Focus on the Positive
No matter what transition your preschooler is going through, remember that changes in routines aren't necessarily bad! As Emma W. insists, change is a fact of life and it's good to start helping your children learn how to adjust at an early age: “Routines are really important for children of all ages to have, and it's good if you can stick to them. But every now and then it’s okay to have a change and it's important to role model for your children how to get through them."
How do you help your child adjust to change?
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