Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Be spontaneous...

Don't get me wrong, I know how important having a routine is for children. But what happens when there is change? Does your child completely melt down? Is the child anxiety ridden? Will it take weeks to restore order?

Why is change, surprise and unpredictability sometimes a good thing? Well lets think of the game, peek-a-boo. Along with being fun, peek-a-boo also teaches babies the concept of object permanence, which occurs somewhere between the ages of 4 and 12 months. A baby learns that even if something is out of sight, it still exists. Or even if something is done out of order, or in a strange place it will still happen.

So how can we create a safe, somewhat predictable life in a world with constant change? Thoughtfully.

First think of things that can be almost always controlled. These things are best if they are NOT tangiable, as you can not always control whether or not something is lost or broken.  (My middle child always liked to nap/sleep with a blanket, we just made sure we switched up which blanket it was).

Perhaps the order you put a child to bed. A prayer, a song, a book, a cuddle, a kiss. Notice that the items can change but the order will stay the same.

Prayers will change nightly, songs will change by age or season, books should progress by age, a cuddle may be a squeeze from dad or back rub from mom, but a kiss can stay a kiss.

This way the "routine" can stay the same, anywhere and be done by anyone.

Second, challenge the routine when your child is likely to succeed.  When they are well rested, comfortable and in an easy going mood. Maybe leave a little crust on the sandwich or go to the toys after you do your grocery shopping.

Then don't forget to be spontaneously fun...Maybe you always pick your child up from school and it is snack, homework and then playtime. How about surprising them with a treat at a park on the way home. That way they still do their homework as soon as they are home even though they played first.

So what happens when, gasp, there is change that happens at a bad time? The most important thing is to remain calm (babies/children read their parents body language cues as to whether or not something is ok). Then carefully acknowledge that there is a change and what you plan to do about it (or what the new/different schedule will be). Don't be sneaky, your child will realize and you want them to trust you.

Now try and think of ways you can create situational/routine permanence in your child.

*The above picture is of our family being spontaneous this weekend. My husband decided he wanted to go on an overnight trip to Payson, 45 minutes before he wanted us to leave. Guess what we did it. We all slept in different beds, in a different place, and I am happy to say...It was enjoyable. 

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