Impossible Routines

Does it ever seem like daily routines with your children seem impossible and you find yourself saying, “We do this everyday, why is it so hard?” If you answered yes, you are not alone. Everyday routines are difficult and can start and end your day full of stress. At Play Therapy i.n.c. we want families not just to survive the day but to thrive as healthy connected families. When we can better understand how our children perceive the world we can help them learn and grow. We have put together some helpful information and tips on getting through your day. First of all, children, especially young children, do not understand the concept of time. As adults we rely constantly on our ability to tell time to get us through the day. We constantly check our clock, cell phone, planner, outlook, alerts and alarms to keep us on time to work, school, events, appointments, and meetings. So for a moment imagine getting through the day by just watching people around you and being told what to do. Oh and don’t be late, hurry up, and come on! Just thinking about this would make anyone come unglued, feel nervous, and frustrated. Yet we often set our children up for this several times a day. Children, unlike us, rely on what is going on around them to know what is happening next and what they need to do. Keeping children ‘on time’ and knowing what to do next means creating routines for them that are predictable and consistent. For example, try making ‘getting ready for bed’ into a predictable consistent routine. This means keeping your ‘getting ready for bed’ routine the exact same every night. It might look something like this: first take a bath, then put on pajamas, brush teeth, read two books, lights out, five minute back rub, then go to sleep. This allows children to better predict what is happening next because of the repetition of routine. In turn, they are less likely to have challenging behaviors. Another great strategy is to take pictures of your child in each step of the routine and turn it into a picture schedule of what to do. Using a picture schedule creates a visual for children showing them their expectations and what to do next. When children know what is expected of them and their routine is consistent, self esteem and self confidence increase because they like knowing what to do and how to do it. The last tip is to use what we call ‘first, then’ statements when giving our children directions. Sticking with the bed time routine you might say, “First bath time, then put on pajamas.” As parents, we often give our kids several consecutive directions. However, after two directions, a child’s brain translates it into what I call the “Charlie Brown Effect,” and all they hear is ‘blah blah blah blah blah’. Give these tips a try for all your daily routines so you can spend more time connecting and enjoying life with your child and family.