Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Importance of a schedule in an overscheduled world

Ever have a week where you feel like there is no rhyme, reason, or schedule? Sometimes life gets in the way and our sense of "normal" is off. When the fridge has random items that can't come together for any semblance of a meal, the laundry has become a mountain for the kids to climb, and the paperwork overflows from the desk, I feel out of control. Times like this require me to bring everything into focus, make a giant "to-do" list, and prioritize a reasonable expectation for the day. When that can happen, even the most chaotic situation seems possible to overcome.

Our children need that scheduled existence to a degree as well, but unlike us, they can't make that to-do list, prioritize, and reason with themselves that all will be just fine. Did you know that a typical daily routine makes children feel safe? Did you know it can also help foster positive behavior? Even though children can't cope with unexpected changes to daily routines the way we do, they can internally control their emotions (even as young babies) if they have a typical daily frame work for comparison. 

My friends and family will attest than I am a pretty over scheduled person - which has made keeping a regular schedule for my children challenging.  Because of our family's work requirements, our daughters did not have the same caretaker every day and I often still cringe at my inability for them to nap regularly, however I know now that maintaining some consistent variables was possible and did help.  Keeping things like bedtime, healthy meals prior to your children getting to the "starving" point, opportunity for regular bursts of physical activity, and a consistent "wind down" bedtime routine provides children with a framework of what to expect in their day. Even if every day doesn't look the same (and should it really? How boring!), if there are certain activities to help them gauge their time by, they develop the ability to adjust their behavior and emotions accordingly and have a sense of safety in the day.

If you have trouble with behavior or schedules with your child, this may be helpful.  Some behavior experts will will request that you chart your day, taking note of sleep times and duration, meals (time and type of nutrition), environment (familiar vs. new, sound level, stimulation level etc.), and people in the environment.  In doing so, parents are often surprised to realize that those tantrums aren't occurring just because their child wants to be rotten, but because they are over tired, over hungry, or overstimulated.  Gathering information this way can be helpful in developing a schedule that fits both your life and your child's needs.

Time in itself is a difficult concept for some children, especially younger ones.  Some suggestions that have been shared with me include:
  • Using a picture schedule with magnetic backs to organize the order of the day in a way a child can understand.  Laminating pictures of meal items, the park, the sitter, the doctor etc. makes this easy and even fun.
  • Setting a timer to help children learn small increments of time, especially with an activity they have difficulty transitioning from.
  • Using a start/finish bin (one of my personal favorites).  Fill one bin with plastic or small objects that represent your day such as a banana for breakfast, keys for "going bye bye", a blanket for nap, and a grocery bag for a trip to the store.  Leave a second bin empty at the start of the day and allow your child to transfer the object representing the finished activity to the finish bin once the activity is complete.
  • Children at 4 or 5 can start to enjoy a simple watch with key times in their day pointed out ("Mommy will be here when the small hand is on the 4.") 
Like most things that come along with parenting, setting and sticking to a schedule isn't easy and isn't possible each and every day, but attempting to do so and being aware of how our family's schedule affects our children can go a long way in teaching them to cope with the unexpected changes that come up from time to time.  If we are successful, there's hope that at least the kids can be excited about the opportunity to climb that laundry pile, even if we are overwhelmed!
     
     

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Welcome to our blog! As longtime friends, we recently decided to combine our professional experience (as a speech-language pathologist and physical therapist) and "Mommy Experience" to create a company dedicated to something we are both extremely passionate about - letting kids be kids! Milestones and Miracles, LLC was formed in 2010. Our mission is to empower parents in understanding the natural progression of their child's development (and not rush it along and skip stages). We develop and provide developmental products to support this learning process, bonding families through engaging, fun, and meaningful experiences! We are thrilled to share that our first product, 1 2 3 Just Play With Me is available for sale. Visit www.milestonesandmiracles.com to learn more and order a unique product for yourself & your child or as a gift! We will continue use this blog to share about topics that interest and excite us. Stay tuned!

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