Back to school season can be an exciting – and challenging – time for both parents and children. Mornings now require structure and separation, which can be hard at the end of a long, lazy summer. So read on for insights about handling both!
The human brain is pattern-seeking, and guess what? We’ve just broken your child’s summer pattern! As you help your child create a new pattern, consider this: many young children take 3-5 months to learn a new routine. It can also take up to 2,000 times in context for a child to obtain a concept and form a new neural connection in the brain. So breathe, and remember that you only have 1,999 more times to show, tell or teach your child something!
It also helps to realize that young children (9 and younger) govern their behavior with visual images. We, as adults, have inner speech (or “talk in our heads”), but children see pictures. The more visual images we provide them, the more we provide a sense of safety and help them to create a pattern. So consider trying these ideas:
- Make a visual schedule of your child’s day. Take photos of him or her eating breakfast, going to school, in school, leaving school, heading to dance, eating dinner, and going to bed. Place this in the home at eye level (and straight across, as young children do not comprehend “return sweep.”)
- Make a Morning Routine book if mornings are a struggle. Take a picture of your child attending to each of his or her morning rituals – eating breakfast, putting on clothes, brushing teeth and hair and going to the bathroom. Put this in a mini photo album for them to look through, with you or by themselves, to see what needs to happen before everyone heads out the door.
By providing children with a consistent and visual routine, their environment becomes predictable. The more predictable, the safer your child feels. Children who feel safe are less likely to feel the need to defend themselves or attack others. They then have the ability to spend their mental energy focusing on problem–solving, self-regulation, creativity, and choice-making.
Patterns – they’re important and helpful!
Information taken from Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey (Loving Guidance, Inc.)