Do the statements below sound familiar for you and your child?
- My child can’t make it down the hallway in school without causing a disruption.
- My child seems to have had a good day at school and then whines incessantly before dinnertime.
- My child’s bedtime routine takes forever and is not enjoyable for anyone.
- My child does fine in the classroom for major subjects but falls apart in the lunchroom or during specials.
- My child acts out whenever there is a substitute teacher or a new babysitter.
- Car rides can become a nightmare.
You may be asking yourself, “why are these situations happening?” All of us do better when routines are structured and predictable, but some of us are particularly sensitive to changes in routines, disruptions, or unexpected events.
- Some children do not have the organization or planning skills essential to move through a normal day smoothly and are stressed even more when faced with something new.
- Some children don’t fully understand or remember routines and are acutely sensitive to anxiety, changes in mood or boredom.
- Some children may have problems with attention or language processing and miss details. Others have problems processing the whole picture and get stuck on partial pieces of information.
- Sensory issues with personal space, noise, light and temperature can be present that can make a child under or over responsive to environmental demands.
- Developmental delays can make it difficult for some children to meet our expectations.
- Situational stressors can compromise a child’s normally adequate coping mechanisms.
What are some solutions?
- First, analyze the problem. What is causing the challenge? Are any of the above issues a factor in a child’s adjustment to change?
- Keep routines as predictable as possible and look at things from your child’s perspective.
- Manage the environment and anticipate problems; transitions need more not less structure.
- Simplify your language, break down instructions into manageable chunks, double-check with your child to make sure they understand what is being asked, and ask your child to repeat the instructions back.
- Plan aloud and provide reassurance; leave room for change and avoid rushing. A five, four, three, two, one transition reminder can be helpful.
- Teach your child to ask for help when appropriate.
- Prepare for change; if possible, discuss changes in advance.
- For the child who can’t make it down the hallway, provide a place at the beginning or end of the line right next to a staff member.
- During dinner preparation, provide your child with some small tasks or interesting activities nearby.
- Manage the environment before and at bedtime. Provide reassurance, stories, talk and snuggle time. Encourage and reward independence.
- Provide more and not less structure during times of transition.