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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Smyth, LCSW

Pockets of Predictability = Calmer more Connected Households

Predictability reduces stress and conflict. Bring calm to you home with pockets of predictability throughout the day.

Structure helps to create a sense of safety by knowing what to expect which in turn results in a calmer household. Visual charts help children to manage routines without constant reminders from parents. This will also help them build independence and confidence.

Below are common problem times of day that routine and structure can help to ease the chaos. It is suggested that you first pick your top three difficult parts of the day, then from those top three pick one to start with. You can make a plan or a timeline to begin the other two parts of the day to move to once the most difficult routine is underway. Keep in mind some things it’s key to be a daily, consistent routine for others it is not. It could mean every Tuesday and Thursday we eat breakfast together or every Friday at 4 we go outside as a family or Sunday-Thursday we go to bed at 9 and Friday and Saturday at 9:30. Make sure you start with a manageable goal, creating huge changes sets us up for failure.

Wake time: Sleep is the cornerstone to a successful day. Create consistent wake time and routine that are very similar regardless of the day of the week. Know how much sleep your child needs (and you need). A good rule of thumb is if you have to wake your child or they have difficulty waking, they are not getting enough sleep. To keep the morning off to a calm start there should be no electronics in the AM. Wake, cuddle, dress, teeth, - Make a visual chart, let the child draw or color to create or type out with clip art for older children. This is a great time to connect and set the tone for the day. There is no is worse way to start your day then yelling or your child crying.

Breakfast- time to connect and be calm, think about assigning jobs, remember responsibility in the form of jobs/chores builds independence and confident. You can plan what is for breakfast the same as you would for dinner. Try and sit together to eat, be present, it sets the stage for the rest of the day. Great chance to talk about the schedule for the day, go over any changes to the regular routine. My children leave earlier than I do in the morning so I have the luxury of standing at the island and talking to them as they eat their breakfasts. My husband is already gone, but the connection with one parent can most certainly set the stage for a successful day.

Scheduled outside time: large muscle play raises calming hormones and morning light sets the body up for a productive day and restful sleep. Those who have scheduled time for outdoor activities spend more time outside, it’s expected rather than pulling from a preferred activity like gaming to go outside and helps to deter resistance to being outside.

Daytime Meals/Naps- plan these parts of the day, pay attention to types of food eaten to rule out sugar/food related issues with behavior. Adults benefit from naps too! Consider 20-30 min power naps, even just laying quiet for 7 mins increases focus and productivity. Having an older child lay quiet for a short period of time without external stimuli can help calm the nervous system and reset it self for the rest of the day.

Re-Entry (returning home): a typical time that causes difficulty due to major transitions. Consider this a time for mid-afternoon snack, taking a bath or outside time. Use a visual timer for activities, lay out a visual schedule for routines or expectations. Reconnecting with children is very important, touch, cuddle, and ask specific questions about the day. What was the best part, worst part, funny part of the day rather than, how was your day? Children often need down time before they do homework or have to run back out the door for another scheduled activity.

Dinner: consider timing of bedtime, how much sleep is needed by age and back up dinner so there is time for evening and bedtime routines. Consider family meals as often as possible and no electronics, answering phones or texts during dinner. This is an excellent time to reconnect with family, stay present and mindful to one another. Ask specific questions about their day. Consider these questions instead of “how was your day” to engage in conversation.

Evening routines: limit artificial light, it tricks the brain into thinking it is sunlight making it harder to fall asleep later. Stop electronic use, read, engage in low key activities. Play classical or meditative music. Consider if bath or shower wakes or relaxes.

Bedtime routine: should be consistent time within 20-30 min regardless of day of the week. Time to connect, parents who monitor bedtimes have children who are in bed and sleeping more consistently. Create a visual plan of the routine and timing- children can draw out their own schedule older children can create with clip art. Using staying up late as reward can be counter-productive.

Adult time: 20-30 min establish and protect it to reconnect with your partner and to calm yourself. *assess if this should be a priority, this is one area that you don't have to wait to create until other areas are established!

Here are some additional hints for success:

Take time to examine your day, what is working and what isn't.

Begin small, start with your highest rated difficult time.

Commit, be consistent.

Power in numbers, have backup, parents need to be on the same page.

Focus on “instead of” not what the “lack of” “removal of”.

Have children participate in meal planning, cooking, routine making

Build independence in routines by using visual charts as reminders instead of parental reminders.

Choose a fun family activity once week to stay connected- hint it can be small like a game, a walk, tea time, dance party...

For children who have difficulty falling asleep, assess the impact of the following: electronic use before bed, amount of time outside, amount of time moving bodies, intellectual stimulation, wake times.

Hugs and Cuddles in the morning does wonders - start the day with a dose of oxytocin!

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