School Psychologist Rebecca Comizio, Neuropsychologist Dr. David Nowell, Therapist Wendy Young, parenting expert Sue Atkins, I are sharing resources to help parents and teachers maintain routines, schedules, structure, and growth at home amidst this complicated time. Feel free to join us on FB to ask questions and find additional useful links and resources. Together we can lift families and students up!
@BeccaComiz @kidlutions @davidnowell @drlynnekenney @sueatkins
Why are Schedules, Routines and Consistency So Important, Right Now?
Let’s reflect on the current scene for a moment. Many of us are parents or teachers working at home. Our children or students are schooling at home. Many of us are to remain socially distanced resulting in a loss of the activities that helped us maintain our health, social interactions and daily structure. The need sets in our homes have quadrupled and the resources have shifted. We are all wearing more hats with more duties and responsibilities. Yet, it’s okay, we are all here to help one another. Together we will get through this. Let’s begin by talking about creating a home environment where we can all thrive.
“I believe we will be better, more connected, brighter, less judgmental more caring human beings on the other side of this.”
Let’s establish some New Routines.
Routines are central to maintaining calm and consistency during “crisis schooling”.
Routines help create a predictable environment in which we can all learn, thrive and grow. Routines keep you out of “damage control” by using future vision, planning and previewing. Routines enhance a sense of personal mastery and they allow children to develop independence and new problem-solving skills. When children live with predictable routines, they feel empowered, confident and competent. Even teens need routines. Routines keep everyone safe.
How Can Routines Help My Family?
Routines enhance collaboration and cooperation within your family. When you take the time to talk with children about what they will do when and in what order, they have the opportunity to make age-appropriate choices and feel like they are an integral part of “the team.”
Routines decrease power struggles. When children know “the routine” they rely on you less to tell them what is expected and they learn to rely more on themselves. If the evening hygiene routine is take a bath, wash your hair, brush your teeth, and put your jammies on, there is no bossing your kids around, getting upset, feeling irritated or being frustrated. The routine is just what they do, the same way, pretty much all the time.
Routines foster task completion. Children are generally productive, they like being busy and doing things. That’s why they’re always asking you, “Can we go to the park,” or “Can we play outside?” When routines are well-established it’s easy to respond, “We sure can go outside, after we finish clearing the table, washing the dishes and putting them in the dishwasher like we do every night.”
Routines foster independence. When routines are consistent, children are able to successfully complete expected tasks and activities without prompts, cues or warnings. This enhances children’s confidence and self-esteem.
Routines help children stay on task. Some children are distracted easily, they focus on compelling stimuli like television, computers and technology, leading them to get “off-task.” Routines tell a child’s brain, first we do this, then we do that, enhancing the child’s ability to begin, execute and complete tasks of every-day living.
Today, in light of the shift in our lives, we need to proactively create new routines.
- Talk with your family members, partner or spouse about what your daily routines will look like.
- How are they shifting from what you were previously doing?
- What can remain the same?
- What actions will you take to bring thoughtful, consistent new routines to your home?
- What are some parts of your routine that help your family feel safe and calm? Let’s talk about those next as you get to planning, previewing and schedule your temporary new life.
Related to this educational series, Wendy Young at Kidlutions wrote a helpful post with a FREE downloadable printable. Find it HERE.
Common Sense Media launched Wide Open School with resources to enhance distance learning. I love this positive concept “School is Closed” “Minds are Wide Open” find the FREE resource here.
COMMUNICATING YOUR DAILY FAMILY PLAN
Develop Your Daily Family Plan
In this moment when many families are home for both school and work, managing the ins and outs of daily living has become more complicated. We are often employing skill sets that are new to us. To help your family during this shift in daily living we share a few ideas:
- Start your day with a brief face to face meeting, perhaps at breakfast called “Our Family Planning Meeting”. Beginning each day previewing and planning for a successful day is a great beginning. Talk about how each family member “sees” the day going. Are there any specific tasks, experiences or events that may take place that will require the family to work well together during that time?
- An important conference call
- A tough test
- A family member who isn’t feeling well and may need special care today
- A family member who is prone to overwhelm and may need to schedule in moments of calming
- Talk it out, use your “future thinking” to get ahead of the challenge, plan and prepare for it
- Review your agreements about how you will interact with one another. Setting the “Culture” of your interaction is important. “We will speak with one another respectfully in calm voices.” “When we need something we shall ask calmly and politely, face to face.” “We will schedule in play time, outdoor time and quiet play so that we can all remain balanced and focused on remaining connected.”
- Review your agreements for when you will meet together for homework help, family activities, exercise, food preparation, art, music, dance and more.
- Set specific times each day and stick with them.
- Consistency and reliability keep the anxious brain calmer.
- Make sure your children know what hours of the day you will be unavailable and what hours you will be free to help with schooling, homework, family games and activities. You may have an important meeting and plan to be unavailable. Talk about that up front. Help your children plan what they will be doing in that hour.
- Organize self-directed activities for your children that can keep them safe and cognitively engaged.
- Create a study center with necessary school supplies so that all needed tools are in one place.
- Organize related, grouped toys in buckets or bins for ready at hand play.
- Make building toys, blocks, legos, trucks and toys easily accessible.
- Establish plans around digital media use. We know this is a time when your children may be playing online games, dancing to Go Noodle and playing Minecraft more. We suggest you do it in a way that helps the children be purposeful in their activities. You can actually help your children build their thinking skills with planning and accountability.
- Pre-tape television programs that are healthy so that children are not simply channel surfing while you are working.
- Make sports equipment and helmets easy to access so that your children may safely play outdoors.
- Make agreements about your “roles & goals” for each day. What are you aiming for? Who is faced with what responsibilities, who will be wearing which hats?
- Who is the morning homework or schooling helper?
- Who is the afternoon homework or schooling helper?
- Who will guide outdoor play and activities to keep everyone safe?
- Who will prepare which meals?
- How will each person contribute to keeping your home orderly and clean?
- Agree to check in a few times per day to be sure you are all behaving in a manner that is helping your family remain calm, flexible, cohesive and caring.
- We can stay out of damage control and catch ourselves when our tone is not as we wish, our tensions are rising or our children are needing more help with planning, previewing, problem-solving, communication, and future thinking.
- Consider having a brief family meeting before your sleep routines begin where you review what worked well, what needs revision and what are “our plans” for a “Better Tomorrow.”
- We are all in this together. Thinking about one another, focusing on being our “best selves” and lifting one another up will help us come out of this experience as better, more skillful, caring human beings.
Listen in to Rebecca Comizio and I on video talking about the details that support these ideas.
Now that you have explored the concepts of establishing routines and family meetings to review how your day will go, consider Writing Your Family Schedule and Posting it up!
A VISUAL Family Schedule can help keep everyone on track. We have made a sample schedule that can be re-written in a way that best suits your family. Make a list of the elements you want on your daily schedule and during your morning planning meeting review with your children what today will “look like”. You can have one overall general schedule and then make lists of special activities or tasks to occur within the schedule.
Be sure to get your kids involved, even young children are more motivated when they feel they have had a say in things.
* TIP: For your younger children who don’t yet read, you can use Velcro-backed cut-outs to represent the different activities throughout the day. Stick the pieces onto your schedule board and allow your children to take them off and place them in a special envelope when they’ve completed an activity or task.
* TIP: For your older children who do read, use (activity, experience or task) sticky notes on a schedule template, blank marker board or wall and let them move the sticky notes around when flexibility in their schedule is needed.
* TIP: It’s possible each child in your family needs a different schedule. That’s fine as well. Let them write out and post their own. The key here is to help them develop a sense of consistency, accountability and agency as you all navigate this time together learning at home.
CLICK on an IMAGE below for immediate FREE access to the sample schedule.
MVPA = moderately vigorous physical activity – activity that raises your heart rate and stimulates your neurotransmitters