Transitions: 6 Tips to Help Your Toddler

Our move from Guatemala back to Cleveland was about as sudden and radical as it gets.  It took us 2 days to decide, 3 days to load the trailer, and 10 days of driving to get here.  We ended up in a different world.

We thought we would live in the trailer, but accepted an offer from Matt’s dad to live with him and his fiancé, Maria. So after 9 months of traveling, we are suddenly living in a house again. We throw our toilet paper in the toilet instead of the trash and can drink water out of the faucet.  Everyone speaks English, and the food is different.  Instead of just the four of us all the time, Matt is often away working, and in the evening there is all kinds of family around.


The boys love it here but they also miss the boat.  Graysen talks about Beatrice as if she is a friend and Rylan keeps asking when we are going back to the boat.  They have a hard time falling asleep at night and are often overtired.  Meltdowns happen with greater frequency.

Transitions are not easy for many of us, but they are especially difficult for toddlers. Little ones thrive on routine, and when their world changes too fast, they are often cranky and difficult. There is always that moment when you are tearing your hair out and wondering if it is worth it.  Trust me, it is.  These guys can adapt to pretty much anything, but it takes time.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make transitions easier for everyone.  If you are making a big change in your life, from a trip to a new house, to having a new baby, consider these suggestions.

  1. Talk to them about what is going to happen.  Toddlers need to know what to expect. The more detail you can go into about what is going to happen, the easier it will be. When we started our trip last fall we had been talking about it for 6 months, and that made it much easier.  This works even if your child isn’t verbal yet; they can still understand and need to know.
  2. Maintain and/or establish rhythms. Toddlers do much better when their days are predictable. If they know that brushing teeth happens after dinner and before books, they will be much more wiling to go along with it.  If things happen at relatively the same time every day, it feels normal.  It helps them feel in control.  When everything else is changing, we try to at least eat and sleep at the same time every day.  This means that even if we are driving, after lunch they take a nap.  This has been a life-saver!
  3. If your day is going to be different than normal, talk to them about what will change. “Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.  We will wake up and instead of eating breakfast in the trailer, we will eat it in the car….”
  4. If you give them choices, limit the options to two or three. Too many choices can overwhelm them, especially in a new situation. “Do you want yogurt or eggs for breakfast?”
  5. Don’t burden them with all the big, adult issues that are going on.  Kids need to know you have the situation under control.  Discuss these things out of their earshot, because they will hear you, even if it seems they aren’t listening.
  6. Give them a job. Toddlers love to feel important and it can help them stay focused.  Carrying a backpack, looking for your airline gate, helping hitch up the trailer, or fixing snacks for the car ride are all great things.  We have been walking the dogs every day after their nap and they love that daily chore!

Many of these suggestions are great for everyday life, but we find them to be especially helpful for smooth transitions.  Change is difficult for young children.  There may still be a few meltdowns, but you will all feel a lot more calm and in control.



2 thoughts on “Transitions: 6 Tips to Help Your Toddler

  1. Ahhh, I had missed one of your posts. Was in the dark until I read the bit about your need to return to The States for a family wedding. MUCH love to you all.


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