Fall can often mean a change to children's routines

Written by, | Sep 30, 2013 2:36 PM

Fall can often mean a change to children’s routines. At my house, my children prepared to go back to school. We shopped for a new backpack, an outfit, and the traditional school supplies. We also prepared in other ways, like taking small steps to re-establish our school routines.

When we use the word “routine” as adults, we often mean “the same old thing” or “no big deal”. For children, however, routine is really important in establishing comfort, trust and predictability all of which allows them to feel and be more successful.

Going to school for the first time, starting child care, or going back to school forces a dramatic change in routine and can really throw children off their game especially when it comes to bedtime and their sleep schedules. Though we may just resign ourselves as grown-ups to the fact that we don’t sleep as much as we should, we need to protect children’s sleep habits for lots of reasons. The Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Project through the Pennsylvania Key states, “research shows that getting enough sleep early in life improves children’s ability to self-regulate; reduces hyperactivity, anxiety, depression and behavioral problems; improves brain processes; and promotes secure emotional attachments.” I’m sold!

So how do we help our children get back on a schedule? The Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Project makes these suggestions:

  1. Create rituals at bedtime that children can expect: PJs, brush teeth, read a story, drink of water, hug and song (for instance).  My suggestion is to choose a story that is a relaxing one.  Some stories are designed to get little bodies moving—not ideal for moments before we want them to drift off.
  2. Give lots of prompts that the evening is winding down.  If you have watched a TV show together, turn off the television, dim the lights in the house, and provide choices.  “Would you like to play one more game before bedtime?”
  3. Start prepping children for big transitions prior to the night before. At our house, for instance, we first scaled back bedtime to 9:30 (instead of the more random bedtime of summer and not quite the 8:30 bedtime of the school year). This helped my children wake up earlier, thus making that first day of school wake up a little easier.
  4. Just a reminder that transitions like going back to school can be really tough for some children. Check in with them and ask how they are feeling about the big day.

Published in Education, Families, Kids

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