Do you know people who over-commit their time and energy? Sure you do. I just have to look in the mirror! Can you remember how we organized our time before we had cell phones, laptops and iPads? Being busy has become a status symbol. As we make a change from summer and vacation to a new school year beginning we all have to make adjustments in our sleep and active schedules. On top of that, there are several holidays throughout the fall and winter that adds stress to our daily lives. I have already seen Halloween decorations in stores.
We could write a book about our experiences with our children and holidays. What is expected to be an exciting visit with extended family and might include shopping and gift giving often has unexpected results. Our children often behave out of character, and the adults wind up exhausted or suffering from migraines that can last from now until next year. (I think I will save the topic of holidays for another post!) Instead of trying to please everyone – including your children, now is the time to evaluate what worked last year and what you might consider changing.
Prepare your children for any upcoming event by talking about it beforehand, whether it is starting school, a shopping trip, a visit with friends, or travel out of town. Explanations can be brief with opportunities for your child to ask questions if s/he wants to know more. Your child may surprise you with feedback that lets you know what works for her/him. Review your expectations prior to social situations such as a dinner party. This will help children know the rules in advance. This can be as simple as letting them know they will be sitting at the table with others to eat and then will be able to play afterwards. Remind them to use their indoor voices and to be careful of breakable items. Always leave extra time to get ready so everyone is not rushed. Allowing for plenty of down time helps enormously. Be aware that constantly changing plans or making last minute decisions will increase the potential for stress. Also, take care in making promises you may not be able to keep.
Children crave routine and consistency. While a new routine is being established, it is important to be consistent with mealtimes and bedtimes as much as possible. Before leaving the house to go in the morning, make sure everyone has a substantial breakfast – including parents. Also, carry small healthy snacks and bottled water along with you.
Take breaks during the day before things get out of control. Expect young children to become cranky or display inappropriate behaviors occasionally. Remember that they have shorter attentions spans than you do and they tire easily. What happens if your child does start crying, running away from you, begins twirling or pulling, has accidents, or is not able to sleep? This maybe a good time to teach relaxation techniques – for you and your child. Sit down, take deep breaths, have a snack together, play with play-dough, draw a picture, or go to a quiet place and read a book together.
Slow down next week and spend time at home with your children. Rest and relaxation before a schedule change is paramount to a successful transition. We are all able to handle new things when our minds and bodies are well rested and nourished. Take walks with your family. Walk past your child’s school to see how long it takes.
Remember to Play! Build with blocks, have a tea party under a sheet-covered table, have a pajama party. Sing in the car, at home, or any time at all. Reading to your child and singing songs are two fantastic ways that you can promote early literacy. Take walks in the parks to find hidden nooks and crannies to play hide and go seek. These intimate times with your children will have lasting benefits and create memories that can carry on to the next generation.
Be proactive– if we are paying attention, we can redirect our children’s extra energy before a situation gets out of control. Sometimes the situation requires our thoughts and actions to be about our children rather than our own expectations. After all, your greatest gift to your child is you – your time and your undivided attention. Everything else is just trimmings.