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Supporting Young TCKs in Transition

Focus: Ages 2-6 

1. Support Healthy Attachment

    • Focus on helping your kids feel “Safe, Seen, Soothed, Secure” - I recommend reading “The Power of Showing Up” by Siegel and Bryson - see “refrigerator sheet” about these four S’s here
    • Incorporate more nurture into each day with your kids – hugs, closeness, snuggles, holding them, etc. Due to the regressive tendencies of kids in transition, they may at times need more “babying” during this time, and that is ok. The extra nurture will promote healthy coping and confidence. 
    • Give them a bracelet, draw a heart/smiley on their hand, etc., and tell them that it is a reminder that you are thinking of them and missing them as you’re both going about your day. 
    • Incorporate regular read-aloud time as a whole family (kids don't have to be still for this either- they can paint, play with legos, do a puzzle, or draw while you read)

    2. Create Stability/Structure with Playfulness

      • Find routines that you can keep no matter what (a favorite stuffed animal goes with you in the car everywhere, you always have the same bedtime routine, etc.)
      • Find ways to incorporate play into your daily routine – play is the way kids process their experiences and emotions, and also how they release stress. Get active, be silly, laugh, dance to music, play make-believe, etc. If you’d like to take this one step further, contact Claire to learn about non-directive play therapy. You can read about it here
      • Focus on the BIG play - running, wrestling with dad, sliding down the stairs on mattresses or pillows, big yoga balls, anything outside, trampoline, etc. – this is a way to get out not only energy but emotions too. 

      3. Talk About Expectations – give them real pictures of what the future could look like

        • One way you can do this is through “doll/stuffed animal role play”. See this folder for more about this activity.  
        • An idea: Keep a family calendar (a wall calendar is best – something that the kids can see is on the wall, even though they can’t read it yet), and talk through it once a week or every day, so that kids know how many days it’s going to be until something happens. If you’d like to, you can also put stickers on this calendar or draw pictures that represent different things (a sticker for “visitors”, a sticker for “travel”, a sticker for “going to the park”) 

        4. Empathy and Processing Emotions and Experiences

          • Look into your child’s eyes and notice their body language for clues to what emotions they could be experiencing. 2) After you’ve decided what your child might be feeling, put the feeling word into a short response, generally beginning with you, “you seem sad,” or “you’re really mad at me right now.” 3) Your facial expression & tone of voice should match your child’s (empathy is conveyed more through nonverbals than verbals). 
          • Make it a common practice to say “I’m sorry” and ask for forgiveness from your kids - especially during a time of transition. Acknowledge the “yuck” with them, especially if we’re (as parents)creating the source of yuck due to our own stress. 
          • One way to process emotions is to have a tradition at the dinner table to share the “highs and lows” of the day as a family. A song would especially help younger kids! See here for a great song to sing for processing the highs and lows of the day. 
          • Give them 30-second bursts of your undivided attention. If you are on the phone, say, “Can you hold for 30 seconds? I’ll be right back.” Put the phone aside, bend down, and give your child undivided, focused attention for 30 seconds; then say, “I have to finish talking to ___.” Stand back up and continue talking with your friend. (Resources from Sue C. Bratton, Garry L. Landreth, Theresa Kellam, Sandra R. Blackard) 
          • Have a story time each day – at dinner or at bedtime, ask questions such as: what did you do today that was new? What was challenging? What was funny? How did you feel when that happened? Who was kind to you today? Etc.
          • Talk about emotions each day – you can use an emotions chart like this one (laminate it, and you can use the same one over and over again) – boys emotions chart, girls emotions chart  

          5. Give Your Kids Opportunities to Develop Agency 

            • Agency is the ability to make choices and decisions that influence their surroundings, and events. It is the ability to act and see the influence of those choices on the world around them – the capacity to act. 
            • TCKs spend a lot of their lives adapting to what is happening to them. This can become a strength, but it can also cause them to feel like victims to their circumstances. Whenever possible, give your kids a choice – this promotes their sense of self, their confidence, and ultimately, their agency and resilience. Below are two examples of how you can encourage agency – in both, the word “choose” is important for the kids to hear:   

            1. Giving choice to obey or to experience consequences – you can choose to clean up your toys now (obedience) or you can choose to have these toys taken away for the day (consequence). Another example: Billy, having candy now is not one of the choices. You can choose to give me the candy now and choose to eat it after dinner, or you can choose for me to put the candy up and choose not to have the candy after dinner. Which do you choose?” (Pause—Billy says nothing.) “If you choose not to choose, you choose for me to choose for you.” (Pause.)
            a)  (Billy gives you the candy.) “I can tell that was a hard decision—I’ll put it up here for you, for after dinner.”
            b)  (Billy continues to hold on to candy.) “I see you’ve chosen for me to choose for you” (as you reach for the candy to put it up). After dinner, if Billy comes to you and says “Now can I have the candy?” your response is, “Remember when you chose not to give me the candy before dinner—at that very moment, you chose not to have candy after dinner.” Child may continue to plead and cry (because it has worked in the past). (Example from Sue C. Bratton, Garry L. Landreth, Theresa Kellam, Sandra R. Blackard) 

            2. Giving choice for what to participate in – “You can choose – Daddy is going to the store, and I am going to stay home and talk with our new friend Sara. Would you like to go with Daddy or stay home with me?” or “We can go to the playground and play with some new friends from church or we can go to the playground and you don’t need to talk to anyone new. What would you like to choose?”

            1. Take Care of Yourself!
            • Probably the biggest influencing factor of kids’ stress levels is their parents’ stress levels. Transition is a big deal. Be gentle with yourself! Take prayer walks to refresh your soul, make time for extra sleep, get some alone time here and there, eat meals with lots of fruits, vegetables and proteins, and take a generally slower pace for the early months of transition. If you are calm and relaxed, that will make a big difference for your little kids. 

            Extra tips from Trisha Wynn: 

            From my experience, Mondays (or any day back to routine after a conference or retreat or weekend) was extra hard on the kids. Like both kids would have their biggest rebellions and total meltdowns going into the preschool on a monday or right after we had been away from home or out of our routine. It was helpful when I finally realized that it took them a few days (not just an afternoon or one day) to "recover" from a retreat or even a vacation. Also, after a home assignment or a conference there would be sleep digression or potty training digression. You have to just give them and yourself a boatload of grace and remember that it will get better!!!

            I was taking my kids to cafes before they could walk- and it's still a thing for us. It's one on one time and it's a place where they are guaranteed a "special" treat. We found the one place in town that had "American" donuts or cake pops or fancy hot chocolate or even a coke because we rarely have that at home...etc.  So maybe putting a name to that special time makes it stand out for the kids too. We called it "Dude and dad time" for years when Hondo would take Caleb out. Nowadays I say, "Let's go on a date!" That equals a special food treat and playing cards at a coffee shop with me. 

            Some kids’ books that might be helpful: 





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