Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

June 28, 2021

Successful Transitions: New Experiences

Parent Tips: Novel Transitions & New Experiences

Novel transitions, new experiences or big changes in routine, can cause anxiety and stress in young children. This could include a change in teacher or classroom, a change within the home environment, the addition of a sibling, a trip to the airport, etc. Adults can help children feel safe and secure during big transitions in a variety of ways.

  • Develop or reading a social story: Social stories are individualized, short stories that depict a social situation or change that your child may encounter. Creating a social story by using a combination of pictures and sentences can help a child understand a situation and anticipate what strategies may be helpful.
    • Tips for creating a social story:
      • Begin with a descriptive sentence. This is the “who, what, where, and why” details of the event. For example, I will go to the dentist on Monday to get my teeth cleaned.
      • Add a directive sentence. This provides instructions as to how your child should appropriately respond to a specific situation. I will be calm, follow directions, and use my manners.
      • Next, add a perspective sentence. This should describe one of your child’s possible responses or feelings to a given situation. I might be scared because of the bright lights and loud noises.
      • Include an affirmative sentence. This states a common value or opinion. Even though it is scary, it is important to see the dentist so my teeth stay healthy.
      • Incorporate a statement about cooperation. Do this by describing the actions or possible help of the people around your child. The dentist, the hygienist, and my parents will help me. They will read my favorite books, turn on the TV, or sing silly songs.
      • A control sentence includes actions or responses created by your child, to aid in remembering the strategies that work for him or her. If I am scared, I can ask the hygienist to hold my hand, take some deep breaths, or ask for a break.
      • Finally, end with a partial sentence. This sentence should encourage your child and allow them to fill in the blank. What will you be at the dentist? “Brave!”
  • Watch a video model: Video modeling is teaching that uses video recording to provide a visual model of the transition. Video modeling may include watching a video of the other person completing the activity, video taping your child completing the activity or videos from a child’s point of view. You can make your own video models, or locate them on a video sharing app. Be sure to view the model first to determine it is appropriate! Pause the video throughout to discuss how it related to your child.
  • Look at a photo book: Take photos that your child can look at before the transition to familiarize themselves with the new environment. A photo book can be “read” by the child, as they describe each picture or scenario.
  • Role-Playing: Practice the transition in a structured situation through modeling/acting out. Use props (medical play kit), wear activity-specific clothing (stethoscope), and perform the activity in a play-based environment (give a teddy bear an exam). Allow your child to ask questions, rehearse coping strategies, and express emotions.
  • Read books or watch movies about the new routine or experience: Mister Roger’s or Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood have many common scenarios.
The above suggestions were compiled by the C&FD psychology team and were adapted from:, Head Start ECLKC, The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC-ASD)

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