The following are compiled strategies for helping a child transition to the next activity, whether it be leaving home or leaving a friend's to come home. Since the goal is to maintain relationships, sometimes the best path is to rethink the need to leave. Sometimes it's mom understanding both the necessity of leaving and making it easier for the child. Rather than a list of things to do, the thought process of respecting the child's needs is here too.
One thing I have found with him is that if I can keep my stress, attitude at a good level, he will often come back down to join me. But, if I find myself getting upset or annoyed then all H-- breaks loose. I try to anticipate problem times and leave plenty of time to get out of the house. Using fun activities as incentives helps us too. My son does not like to feel rushed or controlled. I don't guess anyone does really.
Obviously the first general strategy in these kinds of situations is to allow longer margins - more time for your 9 yo to transition from one activity to another. Arrive earlier to pick her up and give her a warning and more time to make the mental gear changes. I also endorse what Marji said about empathy, and would add that she may need to have her disappointment heard before being willing to move on emotionally. This takes time, and I understand about time crunches - BUT my experience is that the subjective time that this takes is much longer than reality.
Sometimes he takes things with him when we go out -- his GameBoy, a favorite toy, these little pieces of home that help him feel comfortable. Sometimes he gets in the car in his pajamas and gets dressed in the car once we get to wherever we're going. All of these things can help with the transition of going somewhere, if he's willing to go. When we switched our focus onto what we could do to help him, instead of what was wrong with him, everything fell into place. It takes creativity and being open to solutions that you might think others would frown on if they knew. ("Pajamas in the car?!" ) Let them frown. I truly believe that working with your son in these ways will help him trust you and be at ease in the world as he grows up. That's worth a lot, and it's been our experience that it's how unschooling really works well.
More recently, we planned a trip to Rapid City (5 hours away) for an Advent Spiral party at our friends' house. It's a celebration that is important to us both. When it came time to leave, he wasn't ready; he wanted to get every moment possible out of his computer before leaving it for two days (on the surface) but more importantly, he wasn't ready to face these folks for the first time without his sister (deeper issue).
Because I knew this was a possibility (as is my responsibility as the Team Coach, to know this about him and have plan b ready), I had scheduled our departure with a couple of hours padding, specifically to deal with this, to help him with the transition. Reminding him how much fun we'd have and how loving and SAFE these friends are, how quickly we'd return, and how much we love this specific ritual for our Solstice (a very appropriate Light Renewal ceremony), all helped get him into the car with me at a time when we could still arrive at the party on time.
We spent the first 200 miles talking about being torn between two wonderful things and how hard that is for him. Choosing between a good thing and a not-so-good thing is easy, it's when his activities at home are equally as appealing as the outside event that he struggles. I asked him for feedback on what should I do in those situations... it's something we still discuss, there may never be a concrete answer for what works in every situation, but he knows (once again) that I have his best interest at heart.
What solved it this time (what comforted him), is knowing that Solstice is only once a year and that Home will be there long after Solstice is over. He napped the rest of the way, we arrived on time, we had a wonderful celebration, we got to see lots of friends at our fellowship the next morning... and then leaving was really hard! I made it as pleasant as I could (we didn't have a schedule, just a threat of weather), went through the same process again, and we had a great drive home, talking about all the things about home that we miss, even after just one night, and how glad we'll be to get there. There were moments of angst, for sure, but I wouldn't dare call the whole situation angstful because the parts in between (where my focus should be in memory) were joyful and fun.
Was this a surprise refusal [by the 8 yo to leave the house]? If the child has shown they have a problem with transitions, it's the mom's responsibility to find ways to help with transitions and build that help into her plans. Surprises have come up and I've apologized for imposing when I couldn't come up with something better. And then made up for it afterwards with a treat. Sometimes we haven't planned well enough and sometimes we're not thinking clear enough. Apologies are good if they're coupled with an atmosphere of not imposing on others unnecessarily. When kids know we take their feelings seriously, the few times we mess up they will forgive us. When kids feel like we're taking advantage of them a lot -- and that "a lot" is by their standards not ours -- then apologies ring hollow. It says "It wasn't worth it to me to plan ahead and an apology is a lot easier."
My child (almost 4 years old) prefers to be made aware of a coming transition, it helps her to meet it, so I'm used to being so aware of the many little ones that might occur throughout our day.
(For the opposite problem when a kid fixates on an upcoming event ...)
We stopped telling them about plans way ahead of time and took a more relaxed approach. If we knew they needed a transition period, we'd tell them in time to allow that, but most of the time we'd just say, "Hey who wants to go do xyz?" This was a huge improvement because they didn't spend days feeling anxious about an upcoming event and if, for some unforeseen reason it didn't happen, they weren't disappointed because they probably didn't know about it in the first place.
My kids have a tendency to get very fixated on certain things, like if we say we're going to the park at 3pm and we can't go because the car doesn't start or a thunderstorm rolls in then it was really difficult for them. In their head they'd planned their day and that made them feel secure and prepared. Not being able to do something or see someone they'd expected to do or see wasn't just a disappointment like it is to an adult, it made them feel unsafe and anxious about their world.
Knowing each child individually, I would treat them individually: Hannah generally only needed to be told one time that we were leaving soon, she began wrapping things up (conversations and such) and she would be ready to go; Hayden needs more time to transition and I watch carefully for a lull in his activity before even speaking to him, let alone requesting he leave, I am physically at his side, done with my own lingering conversations, and assisting him in any way I can... those responsibilities are MINE, as the human being with most Life experience in the situation AND as the person who knows them best.
Dialogue: "If we're going to get to on time, we need to leave now. But I notice you're and seem reluctant to interrupt that. Do you want a few more minutes?"
Ninety nine per cent of the activities we plan to do that are 'scheduled' are events at which a few minutes flex one way or the other won't make or break the deal. Empowering our children with the control to choose to be on time, or late, AND to honour their desire in this moment can be a peacemaking way. Of course, this strategy entirely hinges on my ability to be cool with being 'late' ... which is usually the greater challenge. I am really learning that right now: (again ... ho hum) how important is my own willingness to set my own agenda aside for the greater good of supporting my children in developing their own sense of self and empowerment. My ability or lack thereof to do this with grace, can entirely make or break so many moments ... .
When things are needful like shopping for groceries, Karl has rarely enjoyed grocery shopping or shopping in general and we bring the gameboy or DS with us so that Karl has something he really likes to do while we shop and we're all together, which Karl loves since his dad works long hours.
Other ideas are going to store alone when someone else is home with Karl, scheduling appointments on Brian's day off, and not even bothering to fly but driving to a destination instead. Another idea, I would think it's possible to bring the dvd player for use with Dora videos on a flight.
If a favorite program is the sticking point to leaving, record it so it can be watched later. That gives them control. I don't think Kathryn watched any of the programs I taped but the important thing is it gave her the choice. She couldn't watch if I made her stop.
Another great thing is TiVo or other DVR. Set it to record favorite shows so that there's always a selection available. That's another way to give them control. They aren't tied to the TV schedule. They get to decide when a program comes on.
Could you buy a handheld dvd player? I saw some designed for small children that were between 100 and 150, I think. The screen was small, but they were supposed to be pretty sturdy. Perhaps she would be more amenable to transitioning to the handheld at the end of the episode. You could go to the park or take a walk and she could sit down and watch her show if she wanted to or run around and play if she wanted to do that. We live in a rural area and so I play tv in the car for the kids when we have a long ride ahead of us. It makes transitions out of the house easier.
Jeffrey needs to feel a sense of completion when leaving an activity. He would get very upset if he was hurried to drop one thing to go do something else. Now that I look back on those earlier years, I see the true trouble was in my thinking, not in his. Jeffrey is still the same way about transitions, but because we all know how Jeffrey feels, our family has learned how to accommodate his needs. An example: Jeffrey loves playing video games. If he's playing a game and we're wanting to leave the house, I let him know in advance that we'll be leaving soon. I ask him to let me know when he's reached a stopping point so the rest of us can be ready to go. I don't tell him to find a stopping point though. He would feel pressured and sink into a negative mood. If I'm in a true hurry, and I try my best to never be in a rush, I don't take my frustration out on the kids because the fault is mine. If I don't manage time well, I have to deal with it.
Knowing [my daughter] hates transition ...what kid doesn't when they have to stop doing something they love ? … I made it as pleasant as possible for her. I gave her a few warnings ... 30 minutes left ... ok you are down to 5 and need to get where you can log out … and asked if she wanted me to grab anything for her to take like her ipod.
When Jayn was this young [under 3] I used very simple "state and wait". I would allow enough time for this process to unfold.
I learnt early on that too many words, too much verbal explaining, seemed to get in the way of Jayn's decision making process. I would say that we had a time limit that was important before we left of course, rather than springing something on her with urgency. But when the "crunch time" came around I would keep it very simple. "It's time to go" and wait by the car, or the front door. I would then refuse to be drawn into other activities or conversations. I would not be drawn in to lengthy explanation or discussion about why it was time to go, because that was just static designed to delay the moment of going.
"Yes you want to stay, but now it's time to go". "Yes we can come back, but now it's time to go."
And I would wait.
And subjectively it would seem like forever, but looking at the clock it was one or two minutes, and Jayn would come willingly and happily, I think feeling that it was her decision.
Also I would then, and still now as much as possible, avoid scheduling other stuff on our park days. I found it was much more workable to do my errand/appointment first and then go to her outing whenever I could. Perhaps you can reorder your work day to do that first and then not have a deadline at the park.
i found that at 4-5 both my kids benefited from "borrowing" something from a friend - it always eased their transition out the door. would that be a possibility? maybe a shared item between your daughter and this girl? a stuffed animal or something that each takes turns "caring for" at home when they leave the other's house?
i found that at 4-5 both my kids benefited from "borrowing" something from a friend - it always eased their transition out the door. would that be a possibility? maybe a shared item between your daughter and this girl? a stuffed animal or something that each takes turns "caring for" at home when they leave the other's house?
My kids can accept "time to come to a stopping point" with computer games, IF they've had enough time to make a certain amount of progress during their game time. The time it takes to come to a stop varies from child to child. It also varies with the point they are at in the game.
As for going places, it can seem to a child that parents pretend to offer the choice to go, but then in their next words or actions take the choice back, even when the parental intention is honest. What I have done with Jayn is say, "If you want to go to whatever, we should leave in 10 minutes" or in the case of someone as young as Kim's son, "after the next scene when thus and such happens" or "when you have done that much more" - tying the timing to a known current activity. I will speak again just before the "point of no return" for punctuality and offer to make a call at that time, if that is Jayn's decision. Usually she will jump up to go; sometimes she really doesn't want to go and that is good to know too.
My kids go to Odyssey of the Mind, they love it. A few weeks back we were having a nice morning at home and my 6 year old said he didn't want to go. I responded by agreeing that we were having a nice time at home. But I knew that my other kids wanted to go. Instead of trying to talk him into I just let it go for a while. Later, about 1/2 hour before were should leave, I said, "guys, if we get out of here to go to OM in about 10 minutes we will have time to stop at the bakery and get rolls and root beer". By that time the morning activities he had been so into were done and he was the first to the car. I know this son well, and if I had tried to force him to go, talk him into it... etc.. he would be complaining every week about it.
Also, when you do entice Marti [the introvert] out [to the park], bring along things you know will help her be happier with the situation. When she's getting bored, take it as your job to find things for her that will make it possible for Lilly [the extrovert] to stay out longer.
(For a chid who doesn't want to try something.)
And with my reluctant kid, I also said, straight out, "You know sometimes you are not wanting to go, but when you get there you have a blast. So I'd like to ask you to give it 10 minutes and then I promise we will just leave immediately if you're still not wanting to be there." Give the kid a watch so they can be in charge of the time.
This is what I did with my child and gymnastics class. I suggested she try just going in and that if she was still not wanting to be there after warm-up when they got their water break (10 min into class probably) that she could come out with me and we would leave. Every time she came and beaming and having a great time. At the end of the summer when it was time to sign up again after a few weeks break, she decided that she didn't want to go back unless she could do the mommy and me [class that was for younger kids]. So, she quit. I encouraged her and reminded her of past fun, but always let her know that I would take her home anytime she let me know that she really needed to leave. I think the comfort of that knowledge was what enabled her to be okay with giving it a try.
I take Jayn's disinclination to go places, especially when the outings are for her benefit, seriously. My experience has been that she will not "warm up" to going in, if I have brought her somewhere against her will, and I would rather disappoint the Mom and child with a phone call and a rescheduling than actually hurt another child's feelings because Jayn is being recalcitrant and saying "no" with anger and resentment to the kid's face.
We plan that if we have an appointment at 9, that we need to be there at 8:45 - by targeting a time earlier, if we get running 5 minutes behind, we still hit the appointment early/on time. We keep a list of the month's activities and appointments (stuff we need to be somewhere at a set time for) on the kitchen chalkboard so anyone can check what and when and where at any time. We discuss the week ahead on Sunday evening. We discuss the next day each evening around dinner. We discuss the day's plans in the morning.
Whenever possible, we pack up, set out, etc whatever we'll need in the morning the evening before. Sometimes, if we've got 10 minutes before leaving and we're just kind of meandering, I'll set a timer to remind myself when we need to get going - note that the 10 minutes is until we need to be getting stuff together and heading out the door, not when we need to be leaving the driveway.
We also assume that there'll be 10 minutes or so worth of stopping at traffic lights, stop signs, slow drivers, etc so if it takes 20 minutes to drive somewhere, we leave 30 minutes beforehand and add another 10 to 15 minutes to arrive early/on time. That way, if we are moving slowly or something happens last minute, we've got leeway.
We talk a lot the whole way through - "I'm going to get our shoes so we can be ready to leave in 10 minutes", "I'll help you get your shoes on since we're leaving in 5 minutes", "Is there anything you want to carry along now when we're leaving?"
Arranging things as much as possible such that departure coincides with the ending of 15 and 30 minute programming blocks (especially in the morning-DS likes to 'wake up' to familiar TV programs before he really gets going) is helpful - no need to tear anyone away from anything (and we're looking into DVR so we can record stuff).
DS often finds it helpful in making the transition from home to elsewhere by bringing something along - a toy, book, some little doodad of some form that is a 'piece of home' to provide continuity in moving from one activity/place/event to another.
Something I've found important for myself is to shower, eat and get myself ready before even waking DS (assuming we're going somewhere first thing in the a.m. which is pretty rare except for Sunday mornings). Once I have everything set, I can then focus 100% on DS getting ready and out the door and that can make a world of difference.
DH goes into his own little intersecting orbit and gets himself ready and gets stuff out to the vehicle while I concentrate on DS. If it is just DS and DH (DH is the at home parent) then (a) we try to avoid anything before 10 am (b) we prep DS the night before to know that in the morning x is happening at y time (c) we talk about what to expect, what will happen, what might happen, what could happen (d) we include him in the planning for the morning - perhaps they stop for a donut on the way or they plan to get lunch afterward or the decide to go to the park or whatever - there have been times when DS has suggested stopping at the bookstore after an appointment - that's a relaxing thing for him (and we like it too - we all just take a deep, paper- and-print scented breath and relax as we walk in the door).
Whatever it is, we try to work up a plan that fits as many needs/wants as possible. We also limit running around times so if there's a set appointment on Tuesday, there's nothing else planned for Tuesday except whatever free-form stuff gets added. We don't do back to back to back appointment running. I know that in some places, where you have to drive an hour to anywhere, that's just not practical, but it works for us.
Don't make [a plan] all or nothing. Say maybe "Let's just drive over there and see if you feel differently,". Or see if he's hungry or doesn't like his shoes or something plain and practical. Maybe he doesn't want to miss a program; can you record it? Maybe he doesn't want to go out in the cold. Maybe if he does get in the car and get there, maybe he'll want to go in. Maybe it's the being at rest that he doesn't want to change.
Maybe you could say "Let's go and watch a while, and then if you want to come home we can." If he gets all the way in and sees the other kids, he might want to stay, or he might not.
The final decision doesn't need to be made before you leave or even after you get there. Every moment can be another "pass or play" point.
Instead of looking at it as a "commitment," think of it as a series of choices.
Sometimes when a child has ADHD too many choices cause them to have a meltdown. With my son I hung outfits so he just had to grab a hanger, gave warnings (still do and he's 13) like 15 minutes until we have to leave, etc., and cut choices to things like we are having pork chops but do you want corn or green beans, tell him as far in advance as possible when things will happen (like dinner with friends). Doctor recommended video games when he is upset as he zones out and can get it together that way. We have taken a Gameboy to restaurants for the past 8-9 years! Some people think it's rude but he's happy and we can eat with friends and family.
A tip I picked up from a wise woman on one of these groups years ago was rather than moving him from A to B, get into A with him and then move with him to B.
So, for example, I might get right in with DS' playing with little army figures on the floor. Then I'd ask if he wanted to see if these two guys here who looked like frogmen (of course, that was always a laugher - frog - men LOL) wanted to get in the tub with him. And we'd transition gently over to the tub within the context of where he was right then. He'd be bringing part of one thing along into the next thing - kind of like using a starter for sourdough or 'friendship' bread, you're bringing along some known goodness into the new thing or situation.
Or, something he still remembers as fun, I'd incorporate bits of his play into changing clothes - if he was pretending to be a fish and I was on the couch with a bit of string 'catching' him (he loved to play this for whatever reason), I'd eventually "catch" him. Then I'd "skin and gut" him (strip off his current outfit) and then roll him in some bread crumbs (put on the fresh outfit) and cook him up (usually tossing him around gently a bit then cuddling him with a blanket). Of course, then I just "had to" eat him all up (play nibbles on fingers and toes and belly type stuff). Obviously, that was more for a littler person but the same type of process is useful with DS now at 10.
We have certain processes, procedures, general "routines" for the few time related items we have in our weeks. Advance notice is really important - "We'll be leaving at 8:30 so we've got 22 minutes" (precision is important to him, not "about 20 or 25 minutes") until we get shoes on" "Okay, 5 minutes until shoes" "Shoe time" and on we go. Timers were good for him for a time when he was around 5 or 6 years old - we'd set a timer until X, and he'd go check it for himself. That independence was important - I wasn't telling him when to do something, the timer was and he could check it whenever he wanted to.
The amount of time would, as much as possible, be set in consultation with DS "how long do you think we should set the timer for before your bath?" Things like bath, bed, meals don't have set time frames for us so that's not so big an issue - we work with his timeframe (his plan for the next few hours - does he want to watch a particular show? Play a particular game? Etc)
Also, looking forward with him rather than "leaving this game" but instead "going to take a bath" was helpful sometimes - a big one for him back when was instead of "leaving friends/playing" after church on Wednesday nights, he was fine with leaving there if we were "going to go check out the bug zappers" (one possible route home involved driving along/past an old industrial canal by some factories still in use so they had big industrial bug zappers - we'd roll down the windows and listen to the zap tzit zap bzzz sounds).
We also used natural breaks in his own plans/play - commercials, changes of programs, and so on - "since you're done with the Legos, how about a bath before you start something else, that way you'll be all fresh for and you can play with while you're in the tub" It's really helpful to remove as many arbitrarily set times as possible so that those few time constrained situations are less of a fuss.
What is the lead-up to this like [son, age 7, getting super mad about going]? Are you making sure he has plenty of warning and that he's not in the middle of something when you're trying to leave? That includes the middle of a tv show!! I try to plan to leave after a show ends, even if that means leaving half an hour earlier. That's something Mo and I talk about, too - oh, look, there are three episodes of Spongebob coming up, and I want to go after the first one. That may make it tough to leave, how do we want to handle that? Sometimes she's okay watching just one episode, other times she'll actually suggest turning the tv off sooner so she doesn't get sucked in and not want to leave.
Something else I find helpful with Mo is to include her in the getting-ready-to-go process by means of a list. Being involved in the process helps her not get in the middle of something. She loves lists, loves to be able to see how many things are left to do (I put everything on the list, too, like "go pee" and "find keys") and she loves being the one to cross things off. Otherwise the process of getting out the door can seem overwhelming to her.
Recently Mo hasn't been wanting to go to the big park in Nashville at all, which is challenging bc that's where the skatepark is - and Ray likes to skate. So I've been looking into alternatives so that she doesn't have to come along - either someone else taking Ray or someone else hanging out with Mo. Interestingly, since I've been doing that, on the occasions where I can't come up with another option (or the option falls through) she's been much more accommodating about having to go along and has good suggestions for ways she can be okay with the situation.
This takes a little advance planning in terms of time, but what about doing something fun before [rather than after] - maybe not big fun like going to the park, but little fun like a stop at a store or a drive-thru to pick up a toy? That's often one of Mo's suggestions. A brand-new toy to explore - even a cheap one that's only going to last the afternoon - can take the blahs out of a dull trip to town. That still leaves after as an option, too.
Oh! (I keep thinking of things) its also good to look at what the day after is like for these outings that he's refusing. One of the reasons Mo doesn't like going to the Nashville park is that we end up being gone most of the day, and she's an introvert, so the next day she spends a whole lot of time de-compressing. So from her perspective, going to the park is a two-day trip. If she has a lot of projects going on at home, that's a real bummer. This wasn't an issue when she was younger bc she had less of a conception of time - its only since she has started to understand the whole today- tomorrow-yesterday thing that she hasn't wanted to go to the big park.
Did you try and acknowledge his feelings about leaving? I see that you sign, but did you try to effectively communicate to him that you understood why he was upset, and try and reach some sort of solution. Sometimes, when my kids are upset about leaving, all I have to do is acknowledge their feelings and empathize with them (gee I know this really sucks, maybe next time we can stay longer).
What helped Jayn become ready for transitions over and over again was what I call "State and Wait". Assuming that Jayn already knew that an outing had been planned for later on, I would state the need using as few words as possible: eg "It's time to go out" - as against "It's time to go out because yadayada and I need you to bring yadayada etc"
Allow extra time. I allowed enough time for Jayn to say no as often as she needed to, until she would suddenly be ready to go.
When Jayn would say she didn't want to go, I would say "I know. Tell me when you're ready" and then very quietly just wait, silent, near the door. (In your case, maybe by the car door.)
Jayn would try to engage me in other activities or conversations. I would just not be drawn, usually with one brief sentence like "I'd love to play dolls when we get home, but right now it's time to go."
The wait feels like hours, but it usually is only a few minutes.
I will add that I saved this for truly important appointments and crucial time-sensitive situations.
Holly and I were just talking and I thought of another transition we came to use to good effect. Three kids, park day, when it was time to leave we would take a kid with us. Sometimes we would leave one to go with another family and take one, all to be redelivered later, or the next day. Three might be too young for this, but by the time they were six, eight, ten, it was WONDERFUL, for the getting out of the park happily aspect.
I have tried keeping something that he really likes in the car and that has worked in the past. I may start that up again. It really does make a smooth transition.
I try and make sure we only leave a place where Simon and Linnaea want to be when we really have to. Either we definitely have to get to somewhere else or we are the last folks there and there isn't much point in staying. Because I've been doing that for a long time, and making sure that when they want to stay somewhere for longer that I am willing to think through every possible way until we can all agree on a way to stay and a way to leave, they are much more likely to respect my need to leave somewhere.
I think that time increments don't work. I think they up the tension the child feels. I will usually say when it is about time to leave so that Simon and Linnaea can wind up whatever needs winding up. And I will make sure that everything that needs gathering has been gathered, that all of the work for leaving is done. But I won't count down to leaving (unless Simon or Linnaea ask), it also seems like I'm ruining their last minutes doing something, making more of the impending departure.
Oh and yes, I agree the time countdown stresses some kids out. Alex did (and does) a lot better with, "Ok do one more fun thing then time to head out." Or three more fun things, or whatever. It's concrete to a little child to go down the slide once more but most toddlers don't get time yet at all.
Consider the possibility that he really needs a lot more time spent on those play dates - maybe his social needs are a lot greater than you think - maybe a lot more than your own. See if you can up both the time spent and the number of play dates each week - lots of long uninterrupted hours of playtime are SUCH a sweet gift we can give our little children!
Also when Kirby was little (I'm talking about Kirby mostly because he was the oldest and only for a while, and it was easier when two or three kids stayed and then went home together), I would carry him out really nicely (or sometimes more perfunctorily, but never meanly), talking about the cool things we were going to do on the way home or at home. One good idea is also to take something with you that he likes or wants and lure him to the car with it (in a way)--give him more the feeling that he's going to another cool time and place, rather than leaving something sparkly to go to grey nothing.
The more exciting you and the car and home are, the easier it will be for him to want to go home. That might seem like a whole different topic, but it's related.
Sometimes if Kirby was crying and thrashing too much to say bye, I would pick him up and rock him (wag him back and forth, rock with him on my hip) and say to the hosting family, "I think this means he had a really good time! Thanks...)