Creatures of Habit
by Dr. Eric Nach
Most of our children are “creatures of habit”. They develop systems for coping with their lives that make sense to them. When their routines are interrupted they may act out in overt (outward) or covert (not so obvious) ways. Regardless of whether they yell, scream, act confrontational, or shut-down, we want to help them resume life ASAP.
So what can parents and others do to help their children get back into routine after experiencing a hurricane or other traumatic event? I anticipate you may find some of my “top ten list” useful.
- Set a date for you and your child to go through their backpack and make sure their papers are organized. Read through the last couple school days class notes with them to help them get into the mindset of school once again.
- With your child, clean-up and organize the areas they do their schoolwork in.
- At least a couple days before school resumes reset bedtime and waking up time to prepare for a return to a regular school schedule.
- A few days before school resumes set time aside from your child’s’ day to read or do some school work, increase the amount of time each day to closely resemble time typically spent doing homework or studying.
- After school resumes, be sure to give your child a limited amount of time to regroup after school before starting homework. Some form of physical activity, for 20-40 minutes tends to work best. I suggest avoiding “screen time” as an activity to wind down, as the use of their screens actually stimulates not relaxes them.
- Resume morning routines before school resumes, practice waking, grooming, breakfast routines and other morning rituals for the entire family, don’t forget about caring for your pets.
- Make sure school clothes are clean and ready to go, if they were damaged due to a hurricane or other catastrophic event, have substitute clothing prepared and send a note to the teacher with your child explaining the clothing situation.
- Once school resumes, spend a little extra time the first week going over assignments and helping your child become and stay organized.
- Odds are your child has been spending more time engaging in screen time than usual, start to wind down. Remember, professionals recommend no screen time at least one hour before bedtime (it is too stimulating). I recommend children under 16, shutting phones off and giving to parents before bedtime.
- Listen to and observe your child for signs of difficulties adjusting back into routine. Consult professionals if you suspect prolonged difficulties with adjusting back into routine. Resume after school activities such as sports, hobbies, therapies, and social groups.
Dr. Eric Nach, Ph.D., M.Ed., A.S.D. Certified
Developmental and Behavioral Specialist
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