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Jan 13, 2010

2-year old processing transitions

The last few weeks have been busy for us. First our trip to Europe via Colorado, then Daniel switching class at daycare.
We had been looking forward to this transition as he had started to get bored in his old class. Since the last class transition in September, he had lost most of his old friends who moved up and he was now the oldest in his class (turning 2 tomorrow!). It was time for him to move and rejoin his friends, and he had been asking for it for a while.

However, when the day came, the transition was much harder than expected. Daniel spent almost the entire day crying for mommy (to the point of losing his voice by end of day), and separation in the following days was not pretty either. After waking up, as soon as Daniel understood that he had to go to the new class again, his -usually happy- mood changed and he didn't say a word until the time when I left him at daycare and he started crying. This wasn't fun, and something we hadn't really anticipated.
Daniel is usually easy going and he adapts quickly. However, this time around, the series of recent events (meeting and saying good-bye to a lot of people in a short amount of time, starting to get used to having mom and dad nearby all day long, the travel and jetlag, etc...) was probably overwhelming. Daniel is also at an age where he processes things differently than he has in the past, being a lot more vocal and communicative, and self-aware too. This all contributed to his painful transition.

It was interesting to observe how Daniel processed the situation, though.
After the first day in the new class, he kept repeating to me (in French): "Mommy left, Daniel cried". He obviously wanted to communicate how sad he was once I left. It was a great opportunity for us to spend time empathizing with him and explaining the situation. However, it didn't quite help right away.

On the following day, Daniel's mood changed as soon as he understood that he would be going back to the new class. After some quick protest (and asking for his old teachers, which was so heart-breaking), he realized that this was not negotiable, and kept quiet. I remember trying to cheer him up all the way to daycare without getting any single word out of him! He was still very sad. He didn't resist much at all when we walked to daycare, but still cried a lot after I left.
That evening, Daniel's key topic was "Mommy left, Daniel cried... Mommy picks up Daniel after work". Of course! Daniel needed to be reassured that I would come back to pick him up every day. I hadn't thought of mentioning the obvious in my prior discussions with him, but the teachers had kept repeating this all day, so he just wanted me to confirm. At night, I kept reinforcing that I would come and pick him up every day.
The 3rd day also had a difficult start. But something interesting started happening in the evening. Daniel started with repetitions of "Mommy left, Daniel cried... Mommy picks up Daniel after work". After we discussed this a few times, he changed to "Mommy leaves, Daniel does not cry". And he repeated this several times. He also repeated it all the way to daycare the next morning. He was getting ready for a morning with no crying!
On the way to daycare that day, we saw a few dads getting into their cars after dropping off their kids. Daniel quickly described that the dads were going to work, but they could come back later for pick-up. I continued to reinforce the pattern as well. Drop-off went much smoother that day. I could feel that Daniel was fighting the urge to cry. But the teachers did a good job finding exciting things for him to do right away, and he went along without looking back. What a relief!

From then on, the transition process was over. Since then, Daniel has been going happily to his new class, impatient to leave in the morning and asking me to stay behind because he wants to walk to class "by himself". What a change in just a few days!

Daniel definitely learned a lot in the process. Tt was interesting to notice how he was articulating his thought process and having a dialogue about it was us. It was heart-breaking, though, and a new and challenging experience for him and us. Hopefully, it means that the next transition will be easier?

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