Why is routine important to our lives and our children’s lives? Routine is what establishes a norm in our lives. For children this is especially important because they need to know what to expect. Children can’t learn and grow if they don’t feel safe in their environment. The first part of establishing this is a familiar routine. This could be reading to them at bedtime, sitting down to eat a meal, or just playing together at a certain time of day. If your child knows that there are rhythms and patterns of the day s/he can count on s/he will be more willing to explore the outside world and grow as a person. A child who has no structure or routine will often feel insecure and be scared to explore or they might test boundaries to see what is acceptable behavior. Children often develop more extreme behaviors when they are allowed to “push the limits” because they don’t know what to expect. They don’t have a base for what is acceptable and what is off limits. Once established, rhythms help to keep themselves going. You and your child will start to look forward to that special time of the day. The first part of setting up a daily rhythm is to set aside some time to think about what needs structure in your life and your child’s life. Then find ways to get rid of the distractions during that time of day and focus on a particular routine that you want to establish. Allow yourself enough time to complete the routine (Don’t start reading a book with only two minutes before lights out). Give your child and yourself time to adjust to the new rhythm. Soon you will have a daily rhythm that you and your child feel good about.
Calming anxiety is not always easy but the first place to start is yourself. Children often pick up on the anxieties of the adults around them. Children feel uneasy and anxious if the adults around them are anxious, upset, or angry. They often don’t understand what your anxieties are about and generalize it to themselves. This is especially true for very young children who often don’t see themselves as separate from their parents. Any feelings and emotions you display they start to take on as their own.
One way to start curbing this anxiety is to limit your child’s exposure to adult conversations and outside media like the news. Limiting their exposure can drastically cut back on the things that they worry about. It doesn’t happen over night but over time they become less involved in the adult world and start to worry less about those things that were drifting into their consciousness at too early an age.
For children who are by nature worriers, anxiety sneaks up quickly. Acknowledging their worries is important but don’t let them or yourself dwell on it. Address the worry and move on. Don’t let the child get stuck ruminating on the same topic over and over. If you know that certain things usually cause anxiety for your child, you can also bring up ideas for how to deal with it ahead of time. Then later that day when you encounter the situation, you can quickly remind your child of how to cope and move them along.
One last thing to keep in mind: always model for your child how you want them to behave. If you see a big bug and start to scream and yell about it, guess what your child will probably develop a fear of bugs. “Teach by example.” By tackling your own fears you are helping yourself and your child!