So this week has ended up being mostly about our little five year old Sweet Pea in many ways. Yesterday’s post hinted at our family routine and how that helped relieve some of Cutie Pie’s stress when he was younger. I thought I’d share about that today, in hopes that maybe it is a tool that will help in relieving your child’s seperation anxiety a little.
Shortly after Cutie Pie was born seven years ago, I was given a book (wish I could find the title) that had helped me understand that my baby had a rhythm. Before I was given the book to read I was always trying to figure out what he needed when he cried and he almost always latched on because it was a source of comfort. I felt like he nursed all. the. time.
I felt trapped. That’s why my friend let me borrow her book (which she doesn’t have anymore and it was so long ago I can’t even remember what it looked like!) After I read it, I realized Cutie Pie was happiest when he would wake, nurse, play, then sleep. Almost always in that order, except when he woke in the middle of the night, in which case he would fall back asleep and not play. Hubby and I rather unconsciously integrated this into our daily lives, making it more or less a daily rhythm. It didn’t hold us back from our lives, rather helped us live them more prepared to bring a baby along for the ride!
As Cutie Pie got older this rhythm of course changed, but repeated itself when Sweet Pea was born and changed along with him as well. Basically when everyone was eating solid food and napping (or not napping) we still followed a basic rhythm of waking, eating, playing, eating, playing, napping (or quiet time as they got older) eating, playing then bedtime. It’s still a rough outline of our days, our basic rhythm or routine.
We noticed on several occasions, when the napping was dropped, that Cutie Pie would become very anxious, would act out or overreact to things we thought were very simple. After noticing this a few times it dawned on us that we had adapted a family rhythm to our days and straying from it too much was making Cutie Pie anxious.
Once we started preparing him for the occasional breaks in our rhythm simply by explaining to him what we were going to do a while before we did it, Cutie Pie hardly acted like this! It was like he simply needed to be ‘in the loop’ in order to adapt to the change and be less anxious.
To an extent, Sweet Pea is like this as well, although his ‘acting out’ is much different. He gets very chatty and starts asking tons of questions to keep us engaged with him.
Even now our family has a weekly chart on the refrigerator. It’s a basic outline of every day, our rhythm centered around meals which naturally happen three times a day, with spaces available to write in what we have planned for the day. (Above is a pic I took at the end of the school year. It’s simply white board that I can write on and erase.)
During the school year we use it mostly for lesson times and evening activities like concerts. During the summer we have camp, lesson times and hubby’s work schedule written in, since his work schedule in the summer is different. Cutie Pie can read and therefore knows a basic idea of what is going on each day. Even though Sweet Pea can’t read, he still sees things written in and knows something will be taking place. I simply update it weekly when I’m reviewing my own plans for the week. I’m starting to use a different color for each person in our family to help Sweet Pea even more.
Overall, I think most people have a basic daily rhythm. You probably do, too, even if you haven’t stopped to think about what it is. From what I’ve read a lot of children do as well, even if it isn’t in sync with their parents’. Sometimes integrating those rhythms, or making those rhythms visual somehow, may help a child know what to expect next, and therefore will decrease their anxiety. It might also help them to be less anxious when you drop them off to camp or school, if they have seen it all laid out in a basic rhythm and know what to expect.
Believe it or not Sweet Pea’s seperation anxiety seems less when he knows to expect going to camp than when we spring a trip to the store on him! I can’t imagine what he’d be like if I suddenly told him we were leaving and tried to drop him off!
What do you think about family rhythms? Do you notice your family having one?