Friday, January 29, 2010

Being Consistent and Predictable Helps Kids With Their Development

I may not be the most spontaneous, exciting person on earth with my predictable routines, "To Do" lists, and consistent ways of dealing with my children. But oh well! Children (and adults) benefit from predictability; it brings them comfort and the feeling of being safe. If my daughter didn't know when bed time was every night, and whether or not I would be present at the bus stop at 4:10 every weekday, she would probably be more of a worrier and not know what to expect. In that same way, if my rules for chores and behavior changed daily as well as how I handled misbehavior, then she would not find comfort in that either. There would also be a lot more acting up, because she would try to see if today will be the day she gets by with something. Lucky for her I am consistent.

Also, for my toddler son, my predictable routines of diaper changes then breakfast then play, etc. help with his language and cognitive development. I also tend to say the same phrases over and over. When I think he might be thirsty I ask "Do you want a drink?" then he says "drink" and nods his head. But what if sometimes I said milk and then other times said cup, drink, ba-ba, juice, or other words? Well, it most likely would take him longer to come up with a word to let me know he is thirsty.

So often when I go in as an OT to help out families, just helping them make predictable routines helps to blossom the child's development. And this is before I have ever started working directly on fine-motor, self-help, sensory integration, or other developmental skills. Now you may say that you are not a schedule kind of person like me and that you don't always want nap, supper, and bedtime to be the exact time everyday. Well, that's okay, as long as you make it a similar time, like plus or minus 30-45 minutes. But even if not that, just approaching activities and using similar words each day is predictable, and that is helpful too. For example, if the child fusses and fights against brushing his teeth because he is in the "terrible twos" or has tactile defensiveness in the mouth, then singing the same song or counting to 10 each time you brush the child's teeth helps the child predict that there will be an ending to this task. That helps the child to not feel that this will last forever so he must fight you. I have seen children with severe cognitive deficits do well with teethbrushing or other "hated" routines as long as it was predictable; now it may take them longer to catch on, but they do. Something as simple as counting to the same number each time can keep a mom from having to hold down her flailing child as she torturously brushes his teeth.

Predictable times of eating and drinking also help with potty training because it is easier to figure out what time of day the child will pee and poop. Kids who graze with a sippee cup or eat different times each day aren't as likely to pee and poop at the same time each day. This is one reason some kids potty train better once they start daycare or Mother's Day Out...because they have a schedule and don't let the little tots walk around the classroom with cups at all times of the day.

Also, for kids in foster care or from orphanages, keeping predictable routines can help them not only feel safe but also to bond with you. Many kids from foreign orphanages don't get held, fed, or played with as often as a child in a stable family environment. Many foster parents report that the foster child hords food and over eats...well, that tells me that the child previously didn't know when he would get his next meal so he better shovel alot in his mouth. Many of the kids taken from their homes were neglected prior to going into the foster care system. So, just playing and feeding the child at approximately the same time each day gives them amazing comfort. For that matter, not yelling when they "act up" as well as spending quality time with them goes a far way too. In terms of hugging and other physical affections, that is debatable because the child may have been physically or sexually abused. But for the child neglected and not abused, hugs, massage, and other touch play is beneficial. But once again, make the way you touch them be a predictable way.
Children from foreign orphanages may take a bit longer to bond depending upon how old they are. This is due to a variety of reasons including cultural differences, not having 1 on 1 attention, and the list goes on.

Well, I am now through blogging because my son's 15 minutes of T.V. time in the morning is over. We will go play in the floor, most likely with his train, cars, and blocks. I am guessing we will also sing his favorite songs and look at books. Then, before you know it snack time will creep up on us. We are such creatures of habit!

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