Summer is here and, for many, that means a lightening up of schedules. EXCITING STUFF! My children are so much more relaxed when they are not pressured by schedules and time constraints. It seems to be a necessary evil that we impose on our kids’ lives, pushing them to live every day according to the clock and calendar. After all, that’s what we do. That’s what we have to do. That is “typical” of humans.
For one day, however, do you think your family could survive without running, eating, stopping and living according to a schedule? Can you imagine living your life without a schedule? The affect it would have on adults and children with anxiety, stress or impatience? Or even people diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
I often think about it. I think about it as the words are coming out of my mouth and I am telling one of my boys “please hurry”, “finish up your food”, “we have to go”, “it’s time to do homework”, “Slow down and relax”, “Stop for a minute”, “Time to get to bed”, “Time to get up”.
These are all inherently demands that we place upon our children. So-called typical children (the term that is often use to describe kids who do not have developmental issues or special-needs). Now imagine having special needs, developmental delays, or a mental illness and having to live life in a world with such inherent demands being placed on you. Our own pressures and anxieties spill over onto our kids. What a crazy way to live.
We, as parents, handle it in our own way, if we are even aware. For me, so far, my best solution has been to make a plan. Kind of like ABA therapy – (1) identify the issues, (2) set practical goals, (3) develop a plan to achieve those goals, (4) is positive reinforcement to implement the plan and (5) reward and celebrate achievements. My self-made plans are not always practical at first, but they have helped and have definitely resulted in decreased anxiety and stress for my family. For instance, during the school year, I know that it takes one of my sons at least 20 minutes to put on his shoes and get out the door so I begin to gently remind him 40 minutes ahead of time.
No more frantic departures. I I verbally praised him forgetting ready and enjoyed seeing him smiling as he walked out the door. I know that it takes another one of my son’s about five minutes to grab his backpack and get out of my car so I get to school a little earlier and patiently wait while he organizes his stuff and zips up the zippers of his backpack and opens the door. That way, he leaves my car much calmer then he would have if I had rushed him to grab his bag and go. Trauma averted.
I watch so many cars continue pass me through the carpool line, but revel in the knowledge that my son is happy walking in to school at his own pace. For my child who races through his meals, I give him slightly smaller portions so he automatically has to wait and slow his pace while he waits for his second serving. Easy peasy. To avoid having to constantly remind my other son of his “to do” list, I wrote it out and hung it up.
An easy visual reminder for everyone to see. I consciously acknowledge and thank him for completing the list. I know it makes him feel good. The end result? Calmer, happier mommy and children. Better days for all of us. We all deserve it. And, it only took a little bit of tweaking. It is a ridiculous notion to think that life can exist without a schedule. I know that. But it was a fun thought while it lasted.
I highly recommend making a plan of action for anyone of any age for any issue. The possibilities are endless. The reward is invaluable.
Kimmy Katari, mom of 4 amazing boys