Updated: Jan 12
I grew up in a family where my parents were married and I never had to go back and forth between "Mom's Home" and "Dad's Home." As a matter of fact, I remember having a school day routine of getting up at the same time, eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, dressing, grabbing my school bag and walking to the bus stop. After school, I rode the bus home, ate a snack, then played outside until dinner - which was always at 5 pm when my Dad got home from work. After dinner, I'd play outside again - until the street lights came on - then take a bath, brush my teeth and read until lights out.
Since our brains are designed to seek patterns, this regular routine set my brain up to seek the pattern of "What's next?"
In the past 12 years of our marriage (for good, bad, or ugly) it has not been like that for our kids. When we married, my son was 3, my husband's son was 4 and his daughter was 5. We had 50/50 custody with our 4 and 5 year old's mom at the time, so they spent half the week with us and half the week with their mom... but sometimes those days and times would change for various reasons. Also, since my son’s father was not able to have a regular visitation schedule for the first couple years due to his work situation, there wasn't any real consistent schedule for him - or our family!
So, while we did the best we could to have a stable routine at our home, it was difficult when sometimes we had three kids, sometimes we had two kids, sometimes we had one kid, and sometimes we had no kids...and I am also certain that routines were different in their other parents' homes because different families (even co-families 😬) simply do things differently. 🤷🏻♀️ Hey, it is what it is!
But that means that our own kids' brains were not set up to seek the pattern of order and consistency. Instead, chaos and novelty became the pattern that their brains looked for to feel comfort and security.
SO, did YOU grow up in a home where the schedule was relatively interchangeable from one day to the next? Then your brain was shaped to seek the pattern of “What’s next?”
- OR -
Did you grow up in a home where something different happened every day (because of a blended family life, chronic health issues, or just a very busy schedule: "Today is swim and tomorrow is brother's football and the next day is grandma's because mom has to work late, then....")? If so, your brain now may need to create a ‘chaotic’ situation to feel comfortable.
Having a predictable daily routine in your home helps children feel a sense of belonging, builds necessary connections that create cooperation, and sets them up for success.
Since research shows that our brains are pattern-seeking, we want to do all we can to create predictable, rather than chaotic, patterns for our children to thrive. This shouldn’t be seen as a need for rigidity, but if most of their days are predictable, young children can better handle small changes without major meltdowns. Routines also help children understand time and time management - which are necessary skills as they grow into adults!
Also, young children think in pictures (this means rather than thinking WORDS like adults do, they actually SEE pictures in their brain to help them know what to do next), so it is most helpful to create a picture schedule so they know what is happening now and next. This doesn’t have to be anything crazy creative, just snapshots or even stick figure drawings of what you are doing now and next. Refer to it often so they get used to using it.
The ultimate goal is PREDICTABILITY - not RIGIDITY.
If you have young children in your home - especially if they are moving between homes - you have the opportunity to help them create patterns of predictability for their brains to develop stronger and healthier.
Here are some suggestions of daily routines throughout the day:
Using the bathroom
Eating meals or snacks
Getting into the car
Taking a bath
Getting ready for bed
Since young children literally think in pictures, images guide their behavior. This means we need to do the best we can when our children are with us, in our home, to create a predicable routine - preferably in pictures - to help them be successful!
Consider telling children what TO do with an image for them to picture. For example, if you say, “Stop that" or "Knock it off" or even "No more hitting your brother!" then they don't have a clear picture of what TO do (the first two have NO picture associated with it and the last one actually gives them an image of hitting their brother!).
Let's help our children be successful by giving them a visual of what to do like this:
"Put your hands by your sides or hold unto the cart when we walk through the store."
"Put these blocks in the big blue box."
"You can touch your brother with gentle hands like this (demonstrate) or you can tell him, 'Move away from me' but you cannot hit him. That hurts."
Let me know if I can help you create a picture schedule for your daily routine! If you have any questions or other needs, comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#ConnectPointMoms helps you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you're in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them!