What you can do to help your child during school closure – Part 3

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Part 1 was a discussion of ways you can help your child and yourself deal with anxiety. Stress and anxiety are expected in situations like our current confinement. You need to have things in place to held deal with them. Don’t just wait until they boil over.  

In Part 2, the importance of organizing time and activities was highlighted. I realize when you’re stressed it’s hard to get organized but please do it for your child(ren). I’ve seen that even knowledgeable, highly skilled parents of kids with self-regulation challenges are forgetting/avoiding this.

Don’t let your children just binge on the same thing for hours on end. That’s not doing them any favors. It can keep them occupied but, you have to think about what life’s going to be like at the end of this school closure. Your children are going back to school routines and schedules. It’ll be a massive shock to them if they go from free-flow, do-what-interests-you to set schedules. If you want to truly help your child, set up a schedule. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but it should involve a variety of activities, some they love and some that are just okay.

Don’t just wing it. Use a visual schedule. Remember that a lot of children have difficulty with working memory. That means they can’t hold a lot of information in their memories at the same time. By making a visual schedule, they can check back to make sure they’re on track. It lets them be more independent – you  don’t have to be reminding over and over.

Here are some things you need to do when making a schedule:

  1. Decide what activities your child would like to do, what they can do, and what they need to do. You’ll need to ask your child what they’d like to do – what are their favorite things? Then decide which things they can do on their own and what ones will need your input. Choose a mix – some favorites, some they can do without your help, some new things they need to learn.
  2. Make pictures of each activity. Get your child involved in this by having them draw pictures of each activity. You can also find pictures online or in magazines. Each picture should be no more than 2 inches by 2 inches (about 5 cms by 5 cms). Glue each picture to a piece of cardboard (old cereal or other box is fine). Print the name of the activity on it. Then, cover the whole thing in clear tape. That’ll make it last longer.   
  3. Decide how many activities to show on the schedule. Some children do better with just two things on their schedule – do this first and then that. Other children can handle longer schedules. Think about how many things your child can do independently, add a couple of things where they need help, and start there. Increase the number of activities over time so you can get them less and less dependent on you.  
  4. Make the schedule. Cut out one of the schedules below or make your own – there are only three spaces for activities on the longer schedule because of space restrictions. Glue the schedule on to a piece of cardboard. Cover in clear tape if you want it to last. Also, if you have non-permanent markers, you can write on the taped-up schedule and then erase it.

5. Decide on the order of activities with your child. Show your child pictures for all the activities they’re going to do. Let them decide the order of things but make sure they do one fun or easy activity followed by something a little more challenging followed by another easy one.

6. Decide how long to do each activity. Use this table to help you figure out how long each section of your schedule should be. 

7. Follow the schedule. Follow the schedule – making sure your child does an activity for just the number of minutes you decided on. But, if your child is getting bogged down or feeling a little too frustrated, tell them what you’re seeing – “It looks like that’s a little too hard/frustrating/long for right now. We can change our mind. How about we finish/change that and do the next thing?” This will help your child put a name to their feelings at that moment. Also, you’ve helped them learn about flexibility – you can change things even though it’s on the schedule.

Please please please get your schedules going.
Let me know how it’s working (or not) for you. Just email at selfregcentral@gmail.com I’ll get back to you quickly – I’m in lockdown too!!

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