by Beverly Smith, Kindermusik mom
It’s a fact: Children need routine and predictability in their days. Routine helps kiddos to distinguish between tasks, order their days and predict what is coming next. According to a wonderful article I read in preparing for this blog, some of the important reasons for setting routines include: giving children confidence, helping them establish healthy habits, helping them to understand and get excited about what is to come, and even helping them in regulating their “body clocks” for things such as regular bowl movements (Petit: Early Learning Journey, 2017). 10 Reasons A Daily Routine is Important for Your Child (and How to Set One). Retrieved from https://www.petitjourney.com.au/10-reasons-a-daily-routine-is-important-for-your-child-and-how-to-set-one/). One of the most significant reasons for incorporating routine into your days is that such predictability helps children, and ALL of us, to feel safe and secure. Children fear the unknown, and shy away from it – even if it’s the unfamiliar broccoli on their plate. But when it comes to the kind of unknowns we are experiencing during this Pandemic, things like not being able to play with their friends, or hug their Grandma (one that has rung home, and painfully so, for me), fear can be exacerbated and take hold in profound ways. And because children do not have the tools to understand and make sense of what they are feeling, their fear can turn to behaviors that seem, to you, extreme or unreasonable. In essence, they are trying to “get it out” – to shed what they are feeling in the only way they can. Have you noticed emotional regression in your 6 year old? Where words and expressing simple feelings with language had become the norm, are you seeing tantrums once again emerge? Take note that these unusual changes could be a sign of underlying fear and uncertainty because of the drastic changes to daily life that we are living through. Further, it’s not just their life changes they are perceiving (lest you think “Well, my child is still basically doing more or less the same things, routinely at home, that we did previously.”); they also perceive, in a real and physical way, your stress levels. Even if you try and hide it, children are experts at perceiving real energy fields from you, whether it is positive or negative; the energy field of the heart is a measurable, physical force: without knowing it, you can literally “download” your stress on to your child, and vice versa of course. Becoming aware of this can fuel your responses, and help you guide your child to understand, provide simple language where there is none, and result in calmer, healthier, happier homes.
First, realize the state of what is and stop! Respond with love and attention – which is, in reality, what our children are calling for when they aren’t busy extending love, but rather, in a state of upset. Take moments – MAKE moments - to “be with” your child – REALLY be with them. A family movie night or game night, for example, is not an example of being present if mom and dad are checking their phones or web surfing for the results of the day. Children (and all of us) need undivided attention to feel valued, comforted and heard, even if words are few.
And to be clear, this fear that presents itself in extreme behaviors is not, as parents often think, a controllable choice in young children. The stress that exhibits itself in poor behavioral choices is a result of the body’s physical response to fear – increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol – that are present in their systems. These hormones prevent children from operating from the frontal, “thinking lobes” of their brain. Rather, they are stuck in the base or limbic areas of the brain, where reasoning is impossible and tantrums and fits occur. Telling them to “stop screaming” or to “use your words” when in this extreme state of upset does not yield desired results; it is impossible for them to make this shift by simple choice! Comforting them to a point of calm, showing empathy and love, and giving them time and attention will help to shift their emotional state and bring them back to a place where reasoning and logic begin to re-emerge.
As we head into summer, you may be eager to be released from the obligations of online and virtual learning, and rightly so. For older kids, in particular, alleviating necessary hours interacting with the screen may be a much-needed break. However, stop to consider, for a moment, how these opportunities benefited your child’s overall sense of maintained routine and emotional security! Seeing familiar faces, having somewhere to ‘be,” and, if you happened to be gifted with a caring teacher who understood the importance of the relationship with your child (and/or you) above a “learning goal,” a sense of love and connection, al beit having to be emitted through a screen! A friend of mine, and teaching assistant in a Kindergarten room of a local school, recently shared that their lead teacher, early on, established the routine of meeting twice a day with her Kindergarteners. The meetings were “optional,” and the learning goals took second place to times of fun and connection. When parents were surveyed after a few weeks, and the teacher asked if they should continue meeting so often, they reported this being valued and important for their kiddos, and them; they wanted to continue the twice a day routine! I bet if children could articulate in words what they were feeling, it was a lifeline to their emotional well-being through a safe, fun, predictable routine with a teacher who know her most important job was to care for, not just “teach” them.
As you consider establishing a routine for summer days without school, include establishing a schedule of routines that are most meaningful and beneficial, not only to accomplishing the simple tasks of dressing for the day, doing chores, play time, etc., but also those that result in special times of connection as a family! This is where I believe we, at Kindermusik with Music Connections Foundation, are ready to serve! Our team of educators have navigated our classrooms, where we know connection is important, to places, virtually, where gentle, guided interaction help you make time to STOP and be together in fun, joyful music-making. Our unlimited Zoom Rooms in June will be places to offer routines that have the potential to become family rituals in new ways, because they will be at HOME! (A “ritual,” by the way, is a routine that adds to it the elements of play, touch, eye contact, and REAL presence; THESE are the routines that kids will remember and request for the rest of their lives, and pass on to their children – your grandchildren).
With our unlimited ZOOM ROOMS you can choose a “room” - the NURSERY ROOM, FAMILY ROOM, REC ROOMS, or HOME THEATRE ROOMS - and various times of day for “Family Jams,” “Coffee and Connect,” “Pajama Parties,” and “Lullaby Lounges,” that will provide a chance to STOP the distractions of TV and voices in your head; you will connect, sing, play instruments (or tupperware!), laugh and be together. You can ask your friends, neighbors, even cousins across the country to join, too! A by-product, by the way, and I sincerely MEAN that it is secondary to providing you with a valuable service, will be that you will be supporting our small business and our mission of providing music to all children – a mission that has been our goal for 26 years. We appreciate that support, but most of all, we love and appreciate that our “business” is one of the heart – music, as the language of love – and so we are working hard to continue to bring it to you. God bless you, and God bless singing, dancing and being connected in that way through this pandemic.
Petit: Early Learning Journey. (2017). 10 Reasons A Daily Routine is Important for Your Child (and How to Set One). https://www.petitjourney.com.au/10-reasons-a-daily-routine-is-important-for-your-child-and-how-to-set-one/