Guest Expert

The Power of Positive Transitions: SMILE SWITCH!

Are daily transitions a source of stress and frustration in your family? With ADHD in the mix, sometimes transitions are more chaos than calm.

You know those times….

  • getting ready for church
  • heading to sports practice
  • sitting down to dinner together
  • going from getting ready for bed to lights out!

Having to be somewhere at a specific time, complete a task, or gather all of the appropriate items for an upcoming activity is difficult for those of us with ADHD brains. This is especially a challenge when we are doing something we enjoy and have to stop and switch gears. 

Put Down the Cattle Prod

Parents who use prodding, urging and nagging to get through transitions can leave their kids with feelings of daunting pressure that can be damaging. It is unhealthy to adult physical nervous systems and emotional well-being, as well.

Unfortunately, our bodies and minds grow accustomed to the stress and strain of rushing, frustration and disappointment. This influences neural pathways to develop a sense of “rush and chaos” as a default, which can be draining and disorganizing to an already hard-working, active brain.

There is a better, more positive way to handle transitions that can actually create healthy neural pathways…and transform mundane daily moments into enjoyable bonus time together. Imagine that! Fun that is good for the brain!

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Pick Up the Smile Switch

Learn to transition with a positive twist by turning on the S.M.I.L.E. SWITCH:

S-Smile and take deep, slow breaths. This deflates pressure. When you put focus on your breath, you allow more oxygen, which in turn increases brain functioning, helping you maintain clarity. When you smile, your heart opens and positively changes physiology. Smiling and breathing can also be “contagious,” as even unconsciously we will begin to match others physiological pace, so it is picked up energetically by your kids.

M-Meet them where they are.  This means getting to your children's level of connection. When you become aware that a transition, or “switch” is going to be coming up, give kids a heads up. If they are sitting down, or running around…join them. Make eye contact, gentle physical touch (like a hand on the shoulder), and let them know that it's time for a S.M.I.L.E. SWITCH! Gently remind them about the activity coming up. Also consider having them use a timer at this point, if necessary.

I-Incorporate Fun! ADHD brains light up when they do something they want to do, or find interesting or fun. They get dull when it's the opposite. Generally, having to switch is dull. Change that by incorporate imagination! A paper plate becomes a steering wheel to “drive” to the coat rack to get outdoor gear on, the garage to get to the car. Getting up the stairs to bed is much more fun if you are pretending to be bears climbing up a steep mountain! When you get the “but I don't want to” whine, or a dull “ok Mom” with no action after that, it's time to reach for FUN!

L-Let them lead-both in the moment and in planning the transition. Ask, don't tell. When you have announced that its time for the S.M.I.L.E. SWITCH, say something like, “We have to get to church, what do we need to do next?” or “Travis, can you show me?”  When you are planning out transitions, make the time to get together and create a timeline or list of steps. Ask them to draw or write out the order of events (say, for getting to soccer after school). Post the timeline in useful places where they can refer back to it. When it's time to switch, let them direct and lead you. This is empowering, fostering independence, self-esteem and self-management skills.

E-Energy. If you're smiling and breathing, you've started tapping into your heart energy. Continued smiling -- not sarcastic or fake smiling, but sincere smiling and a positive attitude -- radiates the heart's energetic field, which affects others around us. Play upbeat, happy music, or slow, calming music, (depending on the “switch”). Stay in a positive energy mode, even if your child is having trouble getting on task, or is showing a beautiful, stubborn side.

Smile and Breathe

There it is, S.M.I.L.E. and breathe. Once the switch has been made (even if only partial success at first), remember to acknowledge & praise!  Each time you've made it through a transition, let everyone cheer and give high fives, or acknowledge by saying something like, “hey, you did it!” or “we got to soccer easier today.”  You can even ask your child, “how do you think it went today?”

Open up lines of connection and communication, and talk about using the S.M.I.L.E. SWITCH. It may take a little planning and practice, but I encourage you and your family to give it a try for one month. Write the acronym down, post it around so you remember to use it. See what difference you notice.

You might even give it a try now that you are at the end of this article. Are you ready for a positive transition experience? Try the S.M.I.L.E. SWITCH!



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