Why are Routines so Important for Kids?

A new school year is a time of change for children and setting a routine can help them manage their stress and transition from the summer schedule to a new school routine.

We often struggle with change. As humans, we develop routines and derive a sense of security from knowing what to expect and when. Change can cause anxiety and uncertainty, resulting in stress. This is especially true for children. A new school year is a time of change for children and setting a routine can help them manage their stress and transition from the summer schedule to a new school routine.

Why are Routines so Powerful?

1. Set Expectations. Children often fear the unknown. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it provides them with consistency and reduces this fear. When a child knows what to expect, they become more confident, independent, and begin to learn responsibility. Even in the younger grades, children can be responsible for choosing their own clothes, brushing their teeth, and making sure everything they need is in their backpack.

family looking at floor plans2. Reduce Stress. Routines benefit the entire family. When everyone knows the routine, the household is generally calmer. Routines make sure daily tasks get completed in a timely manner and reduce the occurrence of forgotten tasks or last-minute crises. There are generally fewer power struggles as children accept that this is just the ways things are done.

3. Create Family Bonds. Routines can also be used to reinforce family bonds and develop family traditions and rituals. For example, older children may flinch at hugs and kisses when leaving for school but may find a special family handshake or fist bump acceptable.

calendar elements4. Easier to Manage Change. Routines should be consistent but flexible. No two days will be exactly the same, but minor changes are managed more easily within the structure of a routine. When setting a morning routine, build in extra time. There are always unexpected things that arise and a time buffer will make them less stressful.

A Getting Ready for School routine should start the night before. As part of the bedtime routine, a child may choose their clothes for the next day, make sure all needed school items are in their backpacks, and check the calendar for any unusual activities that may require a special outfit or signed permission slip. Everything should be placed together in an obvious place, so nothing is forgotten as they leave in the morning.

sleeping toddler5. Healthier. Making sure the child gets enough sleep is critical not only to the morning routine, but to ensuring the child has a productive school day. Bedtimes should be set to allow for adequate sleep. Alarm clocks allow the child to be in charge of waking up, but they may need a little nudging. When waking a child – be cheerful and upbeat. If the child likes to snuggle – build it into their morning routine.

Once children are up and moving around, create a routine for regular activities like getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing hair and teeth, and putting on shoes and socks. Younger children may need reminders and motivation. Again, be positive and upbeat and whenever possible, give the children age appropriate choices. The goal is to give children a good start to their day.

Children tend to do better with structure provided by consistent, predictable routines. Routines help families organize their activities and reduce some of the uncertainty and stress inherent in any family. It’s worth the time to create and write a routine, posting it on the refrigerator so everyone has a visual reminder.

Childcare Tips with Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval, Psychologist and Adjunct Faculty Member

Dr. Formy-Duval has worked with children and families for over 15 years in schools, hospitals, community agencies, and is currently in private practice.

As a new training organization licensed by the Florida Commission of Education, No. 5951, Amslee Institute is introducing our faculty and strategic partners to the Childcare community. Our first Facebook live guest is Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval, a licensed psychologist practicing in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Formy-Duval has worked with children and families for over 15 years in schools, hospitals, community agencies, and is currently in private practice. As an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute, Dr. Formy-Duval is the faculty instructor for the Understanding Children, Positive Discipline, Stress Management, and Self-Regulation courses.

With years of experience in psychology helping children and families, what made you interested in teaching 4 classes at Amslee Institute?

Dr. Formy-Duval: I know how hard it can be to find good nannies as I myself have 2 children and work. I wanted my kids in my home with one person and it was hard to find the right person; we went through several people. I had a hard time finding quality people and when I heard about Amslee, I agreed with the goals of being able to help Nannies have the qualifications families want in order to watch their children. I thought these courses were a good match with my experience and training.

What things should families do with children during the summer when the kids are out of school?

Dr. Formy-Duval: A lot it depends on whether you are a parent who works and has a nanny or one who can stay home with their kids. It also depends on the age of the children. Changing the schedule can be stressful, but summer can be a really fun time to reconnect with your children in a way that is less structured. Children can struggle with the transition of not having the same packed schedule they have in school where they are told where to go and what to do. The free time of summer or summer camps can lead to boredom. The kids complain, and parents feel they need to entertain their kids. But, boredom is developmentally good. Give kids time to be bored and they will creatively fill the time. It may take a few days of enduring the complaining but send them off to play or give them options of what they can do.

What roles do social media, being on the phone, video games, and chat rooms have on their behaviors?

Dr. Formy-Duval: Electronics are embedded in our day to day life and we are welcoming technology in our homes in so many ways. It can be hard to understand how much exposure to technology is too much or if it’s bad. There is a wide spectrum since some families allow unlimited access while others have strict rules. It’s unrealistic to think our children won’t be exposed to and use technology. It can be great for entertaining and web-based education. I think the key is to figure our how social media and electronics can be used as a tool but don’t use it to replace healthy physical and educational activities. It’s a matter of moderation and for older kids, being on the phone is a great way to stay connected through text messaging. I do really caution parents about social media apps like SnapChat, Instagram, and Facebook. A lot of kids can’t manage the social nuances of these apps – that is, arguments and fights can be viewed by 300 people and blown out of proportion. As adults, we struggle with context and have a hard time with it too. I am really cautious with social media and believe they should be limited to older children. However, but messaging and face timing can be a lot of fun at younger ages too.

What are some ideas for parents to re-connect with their kids?

Dr. Formy-Duval: Most of our time with our kids is spent on instructional actions – telling them what to do like brush their teeth and get their shoes on. One of the best ways to reconnect with our kids is sitting down and asking them to tell us about something they are interested in. Now, this might mean that you have a 10-minute conversation about Minecraft or Pokémon or Daniel Tiger or something else you aren’t interested in, but it is worth it. Take the time to put your phone down, make eye contact, and listen to what they are saying. If parents pause and pay attention, it’s a great way to reconnect and only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day. Actively listening really goes a long way.

In our culture, parents and kids are stressed. What can we do to help?

Dr. Formy-Duval: We are a stress society and kids inherently feel the stress from their parents. We need to share stress management tools like helping kids take deep breathes, pausing, counting to 10, and being physically active (running, going up and down stairs, doing jumping jacks, or stomping feet). I really encourage parents to teach our children more ‘feeling’ language (“tell me how that made you feel” and “it sounds like that made you feel frustrated). When we feel stressed there is usually something around us that needs to change. We have to help kids understand what is going on inside of them, so they can use coping skills. We also need to make sure they have really good habits like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, having balanced meals, and getting enough physical activity to proactively manage stress.

If you can share one more thing, what would it be?

Dr. Formy-Duval: In this day and age of 24 hours news and information, I really want to caution parents and childcare providers to remember we have our phones on all the time and often televisions are on in the background. We should focus on allowing our kids to keep their innocence. Children don’t need to know about mass shootings and other adult events on the news. As parents, we are anxious in many ways about the state of the world and many parents are reacting by holding their kids close. Kids need to be allowed to play and to have some freedom. Research shows that our kids are safer today than ever before so let’s shield our young kids from traumatic events that they may not understand. Kids who fear danger at any moment may have anxiety and we want our children to preserve that innocence and enjoy childhood.

Thank you, Lauren, for this session as our first Facebook live video!

To learn more, an Understanding Children course is available with enrollment in the Basic Childcare program.

5 Ways to Identify and 5 Ways to Manage Stress in Children

Being told to calm down is not enough if we don’t have tools to help with that process.

Stress is ever present in today’s society. Stay calm! Relax! Don’t stress! Are frequent messages we receive from the media as well as from our friends and family. Being told to calm down is not enough if we don’t have tools to help with that process.

We tend to reminisce about childhood being care free years, but in fact children often feel overwhelmed. For kids, what causes their stress? Kids stress can come from outside sources such as school, activities, peers and friends, and events going on at home. It can also come from the same sort of internal experiences that adults can feel – feeling a need to please, not wanting to get in trouble or make a mistake, and fears of failure. Like adults, not all stress starts off bad – there is a normal and motivating amount of stress that helps a child try something new for the first time, study for a test, or prepare for a sporting event. When it gets overwhelming, though, it can cause the same sorts of challenges that too much stress causes in adults.

What are signs we need to be paying attention to? Many of these symptoms are similar to those in adults, but it can sometimes be hard to recognize them for what they are, because children often are unequipped to put words to the feelings they’re having inside. In addition, as caregivers, we can sometimes complicate matters by getting annoyed or frustrated by these behaviors, which only compounds the child’s feelings of stress.

Any noticeable change in behavior from the usual pattern can be a sign of stress and these may include:

  1. Increased irritability or moodiness
  2. Complaints of headaches or stomach aches when otherwise healthy
  3. Asking a lot of new questions about upcoming events or things that are currently happening.
  4. Having increased trouble with separations or transitions and clinging to loved ones
  5. Refusing school or an activity

As a nanny or caregiver, you can do a lot to help kids manage their stress.

  1. Be calm. A trusting and warm connection with caregivers is a big help in reducing a child’s experience of stress.
  2. Be predictable. Keep a regular routine and schedule to help provide stability. Also, have clear expectations and rules and follow through on these consistently.
  3. Don’t overschedule. Be mindful of the importance of down time. This is especially true for grade school aged kids, who have a long day in school. Be careful to not fill all waking hours with structured activities.
  4. Basic needs. Make sure kids are getting the right amount of rest, good food, exercise and physical comfort. For younger kids, respect the need for naptimes and don’t frequently skip over them for an activity.
  5. Calming place or toy. Calming toys can be a lovey, favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Calming places and activities will vary depending on the preferences of each child. This may include yoga; older kids may start journaling while younger kids may draw or color. Water seems to have a calming effect for many, so taking a bath or being in the shower might help a child relax.

When managing stress, it’s important to take time to listen and hear what’s going on in the children’s lives. Take their feelings seriously and validate their experience. Even if you think it is a minor issue, it’s likely a big deal for the kid.

For more information, a Stress Management course is available in the Basic Childcare Certification Program from Amslee® Institute.

About the Author. Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval is a licensed psychologist practicing in Durham, North Carolina. Working with children and families for over 15 years in schools, hospitals, community agencies, Dr. Formy-Duval is currently in private practice and is also an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute.

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