From Parent to Working Parent: Tips for a Smooth Transition
There is a point in early parenthood when your laser focus on your little one has to widen to include getting a few non baby or toddler related things done. This is a big transition for new parents and an even bigger one for babies and toddlers who up until this point know only a life of parental attachment. The first separations are a big deal for most families so one great way to begin the process is to just focus on each transition individually.
A transition is just a change of activity or venue but this kind of change is hard for little ones. For one thing, they don’t have a real concept of time. When you tell a toddler you’ll be back in an hour or two, it might as well be a million years. Even if they do understand, they don’t have adequate language skills to communicate needs and feelings. For example, they can’t fully express “hey, don’t leave me here in this new space for a million years! I protest!” But they do expect you to understand and acknowledge what they are feeling.
Warning Does Wonders
One technique that takes minimal planning on your part but makes a world of difference is just a simple warning. When your little one has just a bit of extra time to prepare and process an upcoming change it can make all the difference. “Mom is going to go to her desk and work at her computer in a few minutes.” Saying this a number of times as the transition draws near will warn your child that a change is coming. The tone with which you speak is also important in this context. You want to communicate, not just with words but with your whole self that you are not worried about separating. You child will read your tone and feel less worried as well.
Rock Out Ritual
Another great technique for older toddlers is to create a ritual with your child. This ritual involves behavioral cues that your child will learn to recognize as corresponding to a transition. For example, maybe you and your little will choose a special song to sing before you leave them with a childcare provider. This could also include a special handshake or hug and also a short description or discussion about what is about to happen “You are going to play with your friends and teachers for a little while while I go in another room and gets some work done.” as well as what will happen afterwards. “When I am done working I’m going to come and give you a big hug and then we are going to go home and eat lunch.”
At early stages your child does not have complex language skills to describe or understand intricate explanations. Simple phrases that your little one can begin to remember and attach meaning to are helpful. “It’s play time!” or “Dad always comes back.” are a great way to set the groundwork for your first separations.”
Give Choice a Voice
One helpful approach to transitions is to give your toddler some choices. The most important thing to remember when trying this is to keep the choices to a minimum (two things is plenty) and also that both choices need to be an outcome that you as a parent are ok with. “Do you want to play for five more minutes before we go or do you want to go right now?” These choices give willful toddlers a sense of agency and control which is great for mental and social development and might even eliminate a few arguments.
Separating from your little one and developing smooth transitions further into childhood so you can get work done doesn’t happen all at once. These tips help to smooth the process but the only thing that will get you and your little one to a place where this transition is comfortable for you both, is with practice practice practice.
A diplomat and government relations expert and resident of Silver Lake for almost a decade, Naomi was transformed by motherhood. She left her professional career after the birth of her son, Oden, and struggled to balance her personal aspirations with parenthood. After some rest and reflection, she realized making life easier for parents like herself is her passion. To create a space on the Eastside that fulfills the needs of child AND parent. When Naomi isn’t at Wiggle & Work, you can find her walking around Silver Lake with her family and two 2 rambunctious boxer dogs. She can’t wait to meet all of the parents and children at Wiggle.