Routines help everyone, but especially children, to feel safe and centered. While flexibility and spontaneity are also important, it’s a good idea to create predictable structures for kids. Read on for some ideas on how we can support our kids and attempt to prevent anxiety.
Morning and evening routines – Waking up is hard. Especially on these chilly, darker, winter mornings! Decide on a routine that works for you and your family, then be sure to stick to it. One sample: get up, use the toilet, get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, eat breakfast, put shoes on, go to school. Repeat every day in the same order. For some children, it helps to keep at least some version of this routine on the weekends. For some children, having a visual of this routine can be very helpful and also promote independence. For non-readers, the steps can be laid out using photographs that are in the correct order. Some children even enjoy being able to check off each step in the routine as you go – so using a wipe-off board so that you can start fresh each day can be helpful.
Consider the same idea in the evening. Another sample (but do what works for you!): take a bath, put on pajamas, eat dinner, brush teeth, read two stories, cuddle for five minutes, go to sleep.
Here is a sample of a poster that shows a typical routine:
Preparing ahead – In the evenings, it really helps to get as much done ahead of time for the day ahead. Much of this responsibility falls to parents, but as children get older they can certainly pitch in. Some ideas:
Laying out clothes
Keeping bags, jackets, and shoes ready by the door
Have healthy breakfasts prepared
Leave lots of time – kids often take longer to get things done than we expect. Instead of rushing them through what needs to be done, wake them up a little earlier or start bedtime sooner than you think you need to, so that everything gets done and everyone gets a good night’s sleep.
Presetting for changes – Routines are great, but it’s impossible to stick to them all the time. You may have an early morning meeting, your child may have a doctor’s appointment, or any other number of unpredictable variables may come up. When this happens it’s unsettling to us as adults, but it can really throw kids off and spark anxiety. To help ease their concerns, we can preset them ahead of time whenever possible. The night before a change in routine, take the time to tell your child what will be happening and how it will affect them so they know what to expect. When something unpredictable happens, take a moment to stop and speak to your child calmly and softly; let them know what’s going on, and what you think will need to be done next. Including children in conversations about changes is empowering for them, and will likely help them feel calmer about whatever situation they are in. In the classroom, teachers often list the events of the day that will happen, so that students can anticipate transitions. At the morning circle, they go over the routine and highlight any changes to their usual routine.
I hope this post will help you and your family prepare for tough moments of anxiety. If you try any of these ideas I would love to hear how it goes. Do you have other tips or tricks? Let me know! Have a great week! I wish all of you a peaceful and joyful holiday season!