Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rhythm Method?

Summertime is in full bloom! August is nearly upon us.

In the summer, our daily routine slips away, meal times are more random and bedtime is usually later than usual. The approaching new school year will be here before you know it. To head off many possible challenging situations and back-to-school conflicts with your young child, I suggest that now is a good time to start moving gradually toward your fall time/school time routine.

Having a daily routine or rhythm is a great way to avoid many daily conflict moments because when you have your routine in place the day just flows. When I use the term ‘rhythm,’ I do not mean a rigid schedule or routine, but a flowing in much the same way the tide has a rhythm. Young children are especially creatures of habit and a daily routine becomes like a habit. With habits, we are not paying attention, we are simply doing the habit. If you want your child to wash hands before eating, develop that habit in her and then you won’t have to ‘nag’ about it all the time.

When there is daily rhythm, a regular order of events in the child’s day, when her day flows from one thing to the next in much the same way each day, she feels secure in that flow and there is much less conflict! 

To create a rhythm of your day, think it through. What do you want in the day, and what do the children need. Then, be consistent in establishing and maintaining that rhythm. Watch to see that the needs of the children and other family members are being met. Adjust your rhythm if necessary to better meet the needs. Then relax and enjoy the lower level of stress you have created for your life and your child’s. 

Young children live much more in the present moment than we adults do. Their development, as well as their sense of security and well-being, is supported by structure and regularity. Having a daily family life rhythm with regular timing for daily routines supports mental and emotional health and less anxiety for all involved.

So, let’s look ahead to having a daily rhythm and consider some aspects of that to work toward.

Sleeping/Waking - Is the child getting enough sleep? (Read The 7 0‘Clock Bedtime by Inda Schaenen.) What about an after lunch nap? Are her awake hours active enough so she sleeps well? Are her last few hours before bed each evening free from all electronic media? It physiologically interferes with sleep.

Having an after-dinner routine that carries all the way to sleep time is important. Here is an idea - dinner, then bath and next brushing teeth. Then into bed for story and sleep. Every day just like this. After the first few days you won’t hear, “I don’t want to brush my teeth.” It has just become what you do. Every day. Just like the tides, you can’t argue with it. It just happens. 

Does your child wake up on her own in the morning? Or do you have to awaken her to be ready for the day’s activities? Make bedtime early enough so that she naturally wakes up in time to eat and dress before you have to take her to day-care or school. Start now aiming toward achieving a waking up time early enough in time for the start of the school year.

Eating/Not Eating - Do some of her meltdowns happen because of low blood sugar? Does an extra snack time need to regularly be put into the day? Is there sufficient time of not-eating to allow the digestive system to work? If your child “grazed” all afternoon and then is not hungry at dinner time, something needs to shift. 

Perhaps a not-eating time for a few hours before dinner could help. In a family, not everyone’s digestive system rhythm is the same. We can find a rhythm that fits most and then maybe for one family member, an extra afternoon snack is needed. It is up to the adults to assess the real food needs of the children, and create the rhythm accordingly.

The best way to start establishing a family rhythm is to have dinner at the same time each day. This will ripple into the rest of the day because if dinner time is consistent, then after dinner activities leading up to bed time will become consistent. And waking up in the morning will become consistent.….Your life will be easier, your child’s life and your child’s care provider or teacher’s will too.

I can tell you now that there will be deviations from the rhythm. It can’t be rigid. Dinner at grandma’s house will deviate from the norm - our rhythm has to be able to flex to include what comes up in life. The friend's birthday party will not fit into the usual routine.

A family daily rhythm functions as a structure from which we can meet life with flexibility. Daily rhythm is a blessing for the developing person and for the adults around her. Creating a healthy rhythm is a secret “discipline" for everyone involved. 

Remember this formula: Rhythm = less conflict.