Some people thrive on routine while others shun it, instead preferring to live spontaneously and without a plan from day to day. Parents, no matter how much they may have once lamented the drudgery of a routine, often quickly discover that children need and thrive on a regular routine.
Unfortunately, children have little choice as to whether they live in a structured home with routine or in a chaotic home with little structure.
Let’s look at the benefits of routine for your child before discussing how you can help your child cope with a change in routine – whether it’s due to a new baby, moving, or starting a new school.
Benefits of Routine
A regular routine will:
Nurture a sense of security. Children tend to feel safe and secure when they know what to expect. A routine allows children to know what to expect from each day: They eat their meals at around the same time each day, engage in daily activities (brushing their teeth, cleaning their room, etc), and wake up and go to sleep at the same times each morning and evening.
Encourage time management. Many parents share the same complaint: There are simply not enough hours in the day. A daily routine can help parents manage their time and teach children time management skills.
Allow for bonding time. Children need time to bond with their parents and vice-versa. You can build in special bonding time – such as reading a book before bed or having family movie night every Wednesday – into your daily or weekly routine.
Make bedtime easier for everyone involved. Kids tend to go through phases where they just don’t want to go to sleep. They get up every five minutes to tell you “something important,” or simply refuse to get in and stay in their beds. A nighttime routine – brushing teeth, going to the toilet, reading a book – can help a child win d down and prepare for sleep.
Helping Your Child Cope with Life Changes
You can probably think of many other benefits of a routine for your entire family. What happens when your routine gets completely out of whack? Sometimes, for reasons beyond a parent’s control, routine must change, whether for a short period, such as illness in the family, or permanently, when a new baby is born, the family moves, or the child changes schools.
Children may have different reactions to a disruption of the normal routine. Some may simply go with it while others may have difficulty and begin to act out. For example, a normally toilet trained toddler whose family has moved may become more clingy to his parents or may start to have accidents in his nappy.
Learning how to deal with life changes is an important part of child development. You can help your child cope with life changes by keeping the following in mind:
Prepare your child for the change. If your family is expecting a change, such as a new baby or a move, talk with your child about what is going on and what to expect. Failing to prepare your child for the change could make the transition even tougher. Listen to your child’s concerns and acknowledge how he feels about the impending change rather than ignoring his feelings and his worries.
Sometimes, however, everyone is blindsided by change. A beloved family member may pass away unexpectedly and no one will be prepared for that.
Maintain some aspects of your routine. Even with major life changes that shake up a family’s routine, maintain some parts of your routine, such as bedtime and any special family activities like the Wednesday movie night.
Involve your child. Children need to feel included and to feel important. If you’re expecting a new baby, ask your child to help you prepare the baby’s room or go shopping with you for items for him or her. Making your child feel involved with the change can make the adjustment much easier for him.
Be positive. Keep whatever change your family is going through positive and be positive with your child. It’s okay to acknowledge and discuss the negatives of a life change with your children, keep the overall attitude positive.
An effective way to teach your child that change can be positive, because change means growth, is to share the story of The Hermit Crab: Enhance the Ability to Cope with Growth and Change. This interactive Ebook will help your child learn how to feel peaceful and happy through the changes that will occur throughout his life.