If there’s one thing parents know, it’s children thrive on routines. When it seems like everything is changing, routines can create stability.
“When children know what to expect, they don’t feel powerless and out of control,” said Rashelle Chase from KinderCare Learning Centers’ education team. “Children like to plan just as much as adults do. When they know what will happen next, they can set their expectations.”
Routines can also help children regulate their emotions – and avoid meltdowns or outbursts – because their days follow a pattern and are predictable. There’s typically a sense of comfort in knowing what comes next.
Whether your child’s back-to-school routine includes actually going to school or distance learning, consider these tips to help create a sense of stability.
SET A SCHEDULE
Talk with your child about his or her school day and how it will be different. Work together to come up with ways you can both ease into the new routine, whether your child is attending school part time, learning at home or going to a childcare center or program. Remember, little things can help create a sense of routine and stability. Even if your child is learning at home and could stay in pajamas all day, something as small as getting dressed in school clothes and brushing teeth before sitting down for lessons can signal it’s time to study.
The things that make school fun – whatever that may be for your child – aren’t at home. However, there are some things you can do at home, like eat a snack while studying or play with toys, that you cannot do at school that make learning more enjoyable. Be sure to build breaks into your child’s day. Knowing there will be something fun after the next lesson can give your child something to look forward to and help him or her settle down to complete the task at hand. Plus, those breaks can be an opportunity for parents to get some work done, too.
Talk with your child and with his or her teachers: Perhaps those 30 minutes of reading don’t have to be done midmorning when your child is restless. Instead, maybe your family could do 30 minutes of reading before bed when your child is calmer.
TALK IT OUT
Nearly everyone is experiencing strong emotions right now whether it’s in reaction to an abnormal start to the school year or other factors that impact daily life. The difference is adults can contextualize a situation and adjust their reactions. Children haven’t yet mastered those skills, so they react based on whatever nugget of information they have.
Home is a safe place for most children, which means they know they can express their feelings freely. That may mean slamming laptops or books down in frustration, yelling or using hurtful words. Your child might be upset because he or she doesn’t understand the schoolwork or might be afraid for safety or the safety of loved ones during these uncertain times. Talk with your child about his or her feelings and work together to find healthy ways to express those emotions, like taking three deep breaths or using a physical activity to vent, instead of keeping those feelings pent-up inside.
Difference and change don’t have to mean chaos and uncertainty. With a bit of thought and a stable routine, parents can help their children have an enjoyable, productive school year. Find more tips for creating stable routines for children at kindercare.com.