Sudden changes in routine or activity without warning is a major cause of upset and tantrums in both children and adults alike! Imagine you were in deep concentration doing something you love (or even at work) then suddenly someone comes and grabs you by the hand, pulls you up and says “Time to stop, we are going to be doing X now!”. How would that feel? Not great! Children are no different and deserve the same amount of respect as adults.

I always give a 10 minute warning that we will be changing routine or activity and give countdown reminders as the end of the time approaches. A visual timer helps with this so the child can see the time decreasing. A child with Pathological Demand Avoidance tendencies may find a timer to be too confronting which will set off their stress/avoid reflex, so maybe give it a try but be prepared to ditch this strategy if it gets a negative response after a few tries.

An example of a ‘non timed’ transition warning out and about at a park would be setting a limit such as “we are going to do 10 more pushes on the swing then it will be time to hop off, walk to the car and go home. Count with me!” then after the 10 pushes “10 – and that was the last! Time to get off now”.

Then get them off – do not waver on this one or you are teaching your child that tantrums equals getting what they want and they will not feel safe as you aren’t sticking to your word and following through! – and that is a harder cycle to break!

Anxious children or children on the spectrum need these transition warnings even more than most other children. Remember that change is scary and really difficult due to their more fixed or rigid mindset and compromised ability to ‘feed forward’ and predict what will happen. 

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