This is the second post regarding self regulation in children. The previous post discussed how we set children up for potential meltdowns with our hectic lifestyles. As parents, we need to advocate for more unstructured, free play for children to help them to develop self regulation skills. Here are a few changes that you can make to your family schedule to help children learn how to stay in control:
1. Cut down on extra car rides – combine errands on the way home from work, don’t sign up for extracurricular activities that are far from home or walk whenever possible.
2. Don’t sign up young kids for too many organized activities. Let younger children just play indoors or outside. They will most likely get more physical activity playing outdoors when compared to waiting their turn at a team sport practice, dance class or language lessons. For older kids, do not sign up for more than one activity at a time. Make sure that children have some downtime each day.
3. Eat meals at home more often. Pre-plan menus for the week to make it easier to prepare meals at home.
4. Stop hovering. Back off from your children in certain situations. This has been a big game changer for me. Years ago, when our four oldest children were not school age I spent hours at the parks or story hours. I hovered like crazy constantly telling my children to share, wait your turn, etc. It definitely makes for nice manners which is important but I interfered way too often, eliminating their ability to do that on their own.
5. Slow down and smell the roses! I know life is busy, trust me! Just try to occasionally slow down and let the children go at their own pace. Maybe start with only 15 minutes a day where you just slow down, sit on the floor or dawdle behind them letting them lead.
6. Unplug everyday for a certain amount of time. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations to limit screen time to 2 hours or less per day. This will be difficult at first if it is new to your family, but trust me over time your children will be more engaged, creative and independent. They will be bored on occasion but will find things to do on their own. Start out offering some suggestions of what to do when the screens go off ie. read, crafts, activity books, etc.
7. Create a structured homework routine to get it completed as efficiently as possible to allow for free time. Distractions will make it harder to complete the work so turn off the television, keep an organized space and encourage children to focus on their work. Allow for physical activity prior to homework so the child’s brain is ready to focus.
8. Allow some extra time when you are getting ready, preparing meals or chore time. Even 5 minutes more can be enough time for your child to tie their own shoes, put on their coat, wash a few dishes or pour a bowl of cereal.
9. Kids should play outside every day for at least 6o minutes a day. That’s it, plain and simple – head outdoors!
10. Advocate for more recess time at your children’s school. Here is a great article to get started with research to back up Why Recess Is Important for all children.