Providing Routines

Do you find yourself constantly managing meltdowns? Do you parent a child who is often battling you for control? Sometimes when we “chase the why” behind these behaviors, we find that our kids are having a hard time feeling safe with the level of unpredictability surrounding them. 

What seems to us like a fun Saturday or summer day stretched out before them like a glorious blank canvas can instead feel frightening and uncertain… Will they get anything to eat today? When, and how often? Will safe people take care of them all day long? How? What will be required of them and how will that feel? 

Routines allow kids to lower this high state of vigilance and self-sustaining survival and instead rest in the clear communication that their needs will be met. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Establish daily routines that happen the same way every day (ie: in the morning or at bedtime)–if you’re just getting started, you could make a list or even make a booklet with your child using drawings or photos.
  • Consider ways to communicate what and when food will be available to your child during the day. Visual reminders they can reference throughout the day are especially helpful.
  • How predictable or unpredictable is your day/week? Prepare your child in advance for what their day will look like by talking it through or showing visuals.
  • Before you participate in an activity with a child (cleaning the house, going to the park, visiting the doctor, watching TV), talk about what it will be like and what’s coming next. If participating in or ending the activity is unpleasant, try introducing a ritual that the child can look forward to. (Examples: listening to favorite songs every time you clean, getting a piece of bubblegum to chew whenever you leave the park, watching a favorite video on a caregiver’s phone when waiting in the dr office or getting a shot, every time it’s time to turn off the TV you do a special and unique high-4 or handshake)

If you hate being “tied down” to mundane routines and strict schedules, feel free to rebrand this concept by creatively finding ways to raise the level of predictability in your home. Even the most original and improvised music has a rhythm driving it–provide the rhythm in your home, and your child will eventually feel safe enough to dance along.

– ETC Trainer Jesse Faris