By Lori Jackson
In the art of being a true parent, it’s always a bittersweet moment when summer winds down and the school year forges ahead. I look at my kids and think, wow, another year…just gone. I often wonder how parents capture it all, and yet long so strongly for the structure and routine of the school year. While our summer was filled with camps, trips, getaways, hiking, swimming, and lots of family time, I long for a bit of routine again.
I often have parents come into our practice with little ones who are highly anxious, who struggle with any disruption to their routine and structure, and who are at their wits end with trying to get their child to be calm and collected. I, too, struggle with this in our lives at home, and yet the answer always comes back to the beautiful word of predictability.
Imagine going to a job on your first day and not having a job description. You were hired to do the books, but instead they say, “Find something to do. I think the trash needs taken out.” What? What would you do? I think I would first cry, then get mad, then walk out. But, I am a bit of an emotional reactor. So, I use this example to emphasize the meaning of predictability and routine. We long to know what’s ahead, what’s coming and what is expected of us, and I promise, this doesn’t change with age. One thing parents often miss is the structure and routine of letting their children know what is coming and how it will look. Children, just like adults, have minds that create and assign meaning to things, so when their little minds do just this, it can lead to some rather intense beliefs and thoughts, which can often lead to stress and anxiety.
School years offer some reprieve from this feeling. We can find ourselves breathing easy when the alarm goes off and we must get up, get dressed, brush all of the necessaries, eat a good breakfast, head to school by 8, then off to work, only to turn around at 3:15 for pick up, home for homework, off to guitar and gymnastics, then home for dinner, maybe a game, baths, story time, and sleep. Wake, and repeat…Whew! What a system. It can feel a bit confining and boring, yet affords us ease and comfort when there is consistency in our daily routine.
I often wonder how a teacher, one individual (often too young to be a parent themselves), can manage a group of 28-30 little humans, when I have a difficult time containing my three. Yikes! But all in all, it’s the routine, the structure, and the predictability of what is coming that offers ease and consistency for the entire lot of them. So… without going overboard and writing the play by play, take a moment and jot down your household routine, make it pretty, fun, and be sure to put free time (or playtime) on it, because we all know too well that it flies by, and without a little fun, what are we doing? And… we all do better knowing what’s on the way, so let’s get on the same page. Here’s an image of ours at home. Feel free to copy.
Goodbye summer, hello structure. A beautiful combination of fun and ease.