Transitions are a natural part of life; they cannot be avoided. When you are young you must learn to transition from one activity to another. As you get older you must deal with bigger life transitions, such as switching schools or going off to college or getting a new job. Some people are naturally better at it than others, but regardless of your natural disposition, transitioning from one thing to the next in a healthy way is a skill that must be learned. it is a skill that will serve you well throughout your life, into adulthood and old age. If you are lucky you had diligent parents or you went to a really good preschool that helped facilitate your learning how to transition in a way that caused the least amount of stress and angst. If you are Gen-Xer like me who's parents just parented the way that they were parented you probably didn't get a whole lot of warning before you had to put down what you were doing because it was time to go. As a result of this, transitions were always difficult for me until I taught myself how to transition. I think it may have been in college that I decided that I would prepare myself prior to starting a new class or entering a new professional or social situation. When I finally figured this out, it changed my life.
I bring this up because, as some of you my be aware, the new school year is upon us and my children just started kindergarten. They had to transition out of the preschool that they had been at for 3 years into an entirely new situation at a new location with new people......and they NAILED IT!!!! They were a little slow to separate on the first day, but eventually said their good byes and joined their group meeting, surrounded by nothing but new faces.
Now, I am fairly certain that neither my wife, nor I are naturally gifted with the ability to thrive in any new situation, so genes cannot take the credit. I believe that the credit belongs to us as parents taking the time to prepare our children by talking to them and telling them stories and asking them questions. Credit should also go to their preschool for beginning the conversation early and also helping them to work through their feelings about leaving and going on to kindergarten.
I guess this post is a very long winded endorsment for the importance of giving transitions the reverence that they deserve. It is difficult for a toddler to just put down something that they are engaged in because you have to get to work on time or because it's bath time or bed time. We can help them with the transition and help them to have less anxiety surrounding transitions by preparing them appropriately. Let them know that you will be leaving in 10 minutes and give them on opportunity to finish that one last thing that they are working on. Sacrificing 2 minutes can prevent a lot of tears and headaches. Usually, 2 minutes is all it takes to give them a little "win" and allow them to feel as if they have some power over their environment. For bigger transitions like kindergarten, prepare them in the way that you would like to be prepared for something new. Knowledge is power - if they feel as if they know what they are getting into they will feel much more empowered.
As a father, I've read all of this in the parenting books, but you really have to practice it in the moment to make it part of your natural routine. It requires mindfulness and patience, but you and your children will reap the rewards.