Consistent, stable, schedule and routine are words that parents hear time and time again when it comes to what their little one needs. But, what’s the big deal- routine is boring, right? Wrong. Your child depends on the schedules and routines that you put in place to feel safe and secure. Without a stable routine, a child can feel anxious, insecure, and highly stressed.
When you look at this from an adult perspective, it really makes sense. Imagine that for the last year you have gotten up every day at 7 am. Then, you take a shower, dress and go to the kitchen to have a bowl of oatmeal. After breakfast, you put your bowl in the dishwasher and start it. You gather your coat and head out to the car. Every day you arrive at work to start your job at 8:30am. You have a status meeting at 9 am; respond to messages until you meet a client at 10:30am. You have lunch at 11:45am and stay at lunch until 12:30. After that you return to the office to work on reports and such until you clock out for the day at 5pm. Then you get your coat, drive back home and prepare for your dinner and evening with your family. Every day this is your routine, without fail, without change. You feel certain that each day is going to be just like the last.
Now, you wake up one morning, and the power is out. You have no way to tell time, no electricity nothing to help on your journey to get ready. No hot water in the shower, no way to heat your oatmeal. You can’t even run the dishes. You grab your coat and get in your car. You are out of gas, and need to stop to get some. While pumping gas you realize that you don’t have your cell phone either. You get slowed by traffic on your way, and end up being told that you are late when you arrive at work. You are also told that your morning meeting is cancelled and that your client has changed the time of their meeting to noon. You still don’t have a watch. You skip lunch to meet your client, and have a hard time concentrating on your reports afterwards. You go to leave for the day and get a flat on the way home. You reach for your jacket so you can walk to a gas station, but you have forgotten that at work. You arrive home later than usual, just in time to hear that you are going out to dinner with your in-laws. How are you feeling now? Has your level of stress and anxiety risen? Do you feel secure in what is happening in your day now?
While a lot of big things changed between these two days, the effect it would have on you as an adult is similar to the effect that a small child would feel when their routine is suddenly altered. For children that don’t have routines, every day feel s like this. Every time your child follows through an established routine in their day, they feel a little more confident that they know what‘s going on and that they can handle it. Their stress lessens, and they feel calmer.
Some easy and important ways to place little bits of routine in your child’s life are by using key points in their day. Wake up, meals, bath time, drop offs/pick-ups, and bed times are all great times to use routines. Simple routines at these important times of activity transition help a child know what is happening now, what’s happening next, and what is expected of them at that time. Parents who implement routines notice that their children are less combative during these changes and more likely to assist in completing the task.
So while you go about your day confident in knowing what’s in store for you, remember that your child can feel that way too with just a little planning and consistency from you. Use routines with your child to make both of your lives easier and a little less stressful.