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Helping Babies Deal with Transitions

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Most grownups have forgotten how slowly time passes. When you’re young, a half-hour car ride seems to take all day; a week of waiting lasts a year; summer feels like it never ends. Maybe that’s why the end of summer so often comes as a jolt. One day, you’re staring into hours and hours of nothing to do; the next day, you’re waking up at dawn to gulp down breakfast and catch a bus.
Helping Babies Deal with Transitions

Even children who are too young to go to school feel the impact of transitioning from one season to the next. With fall approaching, lazy mornings take on an urgent feel as older brothers and sisters get geared up for school. Evenings too, are more structured, with homework, sports, and stricter bedtimes. Most young children take these changes in stride, but many do not. Trouble with transitions is “factory equipment” for many children – a trait they are born with, not something added later. Young children who become cranky or restless might be responding to changes in the world around them.

How can you help a change-sensitive child? For small transitions (time to clean up, for example), a couple of minutes of warning and gentle urging to “Find a good stopping spot,” may be all it takes. For bigger changes, like the end of summer, let the natural world be your guide. Make a point of going outside and looking for signs of the season’s turning. Are the shadows longer at noon? Are the late flowers (chrysanthemums, heliotropes) coming into their own? Are the evenings cooler and shorter?  Point out and talk about the changes around you. 

And, of course, read about them: Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey, is a beautifully illustrated story about summer’s close. It always reminds me of how long summers used to be, and how sad it was to see them go. As a parent, you may not be able to inhabit your child’s world, but if you visit from time to time your child will welcome you.

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