Tough Transitions…Help your child SEE what comes next

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I cannot count the number of times parents are seeking advice because their child doesn’t want to come inside or leave the playground resulting in a monstrous fit.  Let’s face it, transitions are hard for everyone.  Transition difficulty happens as all ages, an older child may negotiate while a younger child may try to escape or throw a fit that makes you feel like THAT parent, the one that cannot control their child.

For a younger child, (preschool teachers and therapists take note) I typically recommend using some type of visual schedule. Visual schedules help children know what to expect, to SEE what is next. Verbal warnings such as 2 more minutes, work well for some children, but if you find that your transitions continue to be difficult, give a visual schedule a go!

Visual schedules can be used during difficult times like nighttime routine when the child is tired, yet doesn’t want to go to bed. Here is an example of a nighttime visual schedule using the app Choiceworks. The schedule can be customized to your individual schedule with the stock pictures or you can take your own photos and add your own labels. The child can move the picture over to the right under “all done” when the task is completed. They SEE exactly what is happening next and what is expected.

**I skipped the choice at the end because for me, going to bed isn’t a choice. Remember when initiating the schedule if it isn’t a choice DON’T ASK! (read more about this in my previous post)


A visual schedule can also be used for a when–then type of situation. For example, when we are done playing outside then we are going inside for a snack or you can choose legos.


With a little forward thinking, visuals can be just as easy as snapping a picture with your phone. When it comes time to transition you will have the visual needed so they can see what is next.  Try using the Children’s Countdown – Children’s visual countdown timer to give another visual component to the transition.

Next time you anticipate a monstrous fit, give visuals a try, you may just be surprised how well it works when they SEE and understand what is next. Everybody WINS!

As for that older child, you may want to sharpen up on your negotiation skills.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Choiceworks how to guides

Jennie Bjorem, M.A., CCC-SLP


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