Do changes to routines affect your child’s behaviour at home and in school?
Learn how we can help.
Getting children into good sleep or study routines is tough enough; vacations and daylight saving time can add an extra element to the challenge of keeping to a family’s routine. Changes in routine can be fun but can also leave children, as well as parents, out of sorts and tired. Tired children may end up behaving in challenging ways. Learn how to manage changes to your child’s routine with these tips from our educators and therapists.
Tips to help during changes in routine
- Have fun and relax: if a change of routine occurs because of family vacations or school breaks, it’s okay to “go with the flow”. Let our family enjoy some down time, especially if it’s time spent together.
- Keep routines steady: whether it’s for bed time or homework time, let your children know that you expect them to stick to their routines. If you are going to be looser with your routine let them know this. Explain to them why and for how long you may be running on “vacation time” when it comes to regular routines. It’s all about communication and talking about your expectations.
- Structure works: knowing what comes next often makes us feel better and less anxious. Use all or some of the tools below to help your child understand the structure of the day.
Tools to help in preparing for transitions
- Warnings: The first strategy is the use of warnings. A child can often struggle with transitions, which often result in him/her not doing what her parents asked. The use of warnings gives the child an opportunity to come to terms with the idea that a preferred activity is coming to an end, e.g., that play time is all done. In order to support a warning, a timer is often used as the concept of time is sometimes difficult for children to understand. Using a visual to ‘count down’ provides a concrete reference point that a child could refer to and therefore prepare himself/herself for the activity to end.
- Schedules: Allow children to see what is coming next. This will help them understand a sequence of activities and will increase predictability for them. Visual schedules used in the home setting can help decrease transition time. When using a visual schedule, it is important to assess how much information your child needs to have to transition successfully. For example, your child may transition well knowing the full day routine, while other children may need to have an activity to activity schedule. Visual schedules, using pictures or text, can be portable with children or located in a central location within your home. Visual schedules help to ease frustration and anxiety, and adjust to any changes in routine. Visual schedules also help children learn and complete new tasks and become more independent.
- First/Then: First/Then schedules allow a child to see what activity will occur next. This can be a beneficial tool to help your child complete and transition from a non-preferred activity to a preferred activity (e.g., first bath then story time and cuddles). Think of this strategy as creating a small understandable and manageable contract with your child. This type of “first/then contract” can be presented using pictures, text or spoken words, depending on your child.
- Social Stories: A social story or social narrative is a proactive strategy designed to describe social situations that are confusing or challenging for children (e.g. transitions). They are usually written by adults for a child in the form of a story and take into consideration his/her abilities and learning styles. They describe social situations identifying the why, where, when, who, and what that might be involved.
Whether your child is out of their typically routine due to a daylight savings time or a family vacation, be patient, supportive and help them understand what activities are coming up next. These are just a few of the strategies to help children with routine changes that our experts have found helpful. Do you have any others to add?
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