For example, I am a follower of time. So I would prepare the kids to go to bed by saying – it is bedtime in ten minutes, it is bedtime in five minutes, it is bedtime in one minute, it is time to start heading up the stairs to bed now. While this “preparation” - letting everyone know that the transition was coming up – helped for some of our kids, we still had one that would start to cry, no matter what, every night. Did I mention EVERY NIGHT? Sometimes transitions cause tears, sometimes tantrums, sometimes complete nuclear meltdowns. It was frustrating for me because I like SMOOTH transitions and I was using a tool that I felt should work for everyone. My spouse – in all her infinite wisdom – one day pointed out to me that my transition process, though it seemed like it was natural to me, was unnatural to the child who was melting down because we had started a video (another part of the night time ritual) and the video had not come to a complete end. While I viewed the announcement of time intervals as being helpful, it still seemed unnatural to our one child because the show had not ended. I have had to adapt my preparation for transition to bed.
Another of our children has difficulty with transitioning from being on the school bus to being at home. It is a long ride, he is hungry and thirsty and tired, and the rules of the bus and the rules of home are different. On a daily basis he would fall apart before even making it to the house. One thing that we have made readily available is a snack for the kids IMMEDIATELY. They need to have their sugar levels raised ( kids on the FAS spectrum burn more sugar than other kids – which is a post for another day) but having that increase in blood sugar levels is CRITICAL to us at that time of day to assist with that transition.
Unfortunately, not every kid has difficulty with every transition and not every strategy works for every transition, and then to further complicate matters, not every strategy is successful every time – even if it has been successful in the past!
What I need to remind myself of is that it is not my fault that the kids are having meltdowns. It is not my fault that the kids are having trouble with transitions. It is not my fault, and it does not make me a bad parent. It isn’t about me! It is only my responsibility to not get upset and to continue to look for ways to assist in easing the transition. I had to remind myself of this last night. Our kids had been at respite for a few days. Although the break is needed to recharge our batteries, the transition for the kids from being at a respite provider to coming back home is fraught with tears, and tantrums. We sometimes skip the respite so we can avoid the transition!
I went to pick up the kids and I was VERY happy to see them. I missed them a lot. Some of them were thrilled to see me. One of them was not. He was mad, he stomped his feet, he yelled, he said unkind things. I reminded myself he was struggling with the transition and I spoke to him quietly. I told him I loved him no matter what and that I was sad he was not happy to see me (he said he wasn’t) and that I was always happy to see him and to have him come home. He even let me hold his hand as we drove home.
He was still mad, he still stomped his feet and said unkind things, BUT I was able to handle the transition better because I didn’t get upset that he was not happy to see me. I had to keep an internal dialogue goin, I won’t lie. I want the kids to be happy to see me, but I need to understand that it is not something they are in control of, and if I get upset about it the situation does not improve! Sometimes I do better at this than others. Last night was a particularly good night for me because I was remembering these things and trying to put them into practise, but believe me we have had some UGLY homecomings where I felt like the kids were better off to stay in respite if they hated coming home so much.This morning his transition from sleep to wake was a great one and he was happy to see me this morning. So all is good for now – until the next transition!