Human beings tend to be herd animals. As a species we tend to congregate and during certain phases of our development we learn the skills of being part of a group. I currently have more couples and families in my practice than I recall having at any one time in the past. The pressures on parenting are greater in the understanding of family seems to be less.
In America we have a divorce rate of approximately 50% of all marriages which means that a very high percentage of children are not living with their biological parents. The number of single-parent families is on the rise. It is my opinion that single parenting is significantly more than twice as difficult as parenting with two parents in the home. Because of the enormity of this topic I intend to only cover a small portion in this particular blog.
Often referrals for children that are suspected of having some sort of attention deficit or autism type symptoms are also from homes that are overly stressed. The stress may come from the divorce, recombining families or simply the additional stress of work or education. These sorts of stresses are almost never anticipated and therefore tend to be addressed during times of family crisis such as poor school performance or family turmoil.
While I don’t expect to significantly impact the divorce rate, I would like to provide a few approaches to child rearing. I have to admit that I did not have the benefit of most of this information when I was trying to parent and therefore was not nearly as effective as the children deserved.
Children begin learning the basis for socialization and personal security from their home environment. A great number of my adult client population that deals with depression and anxiety have come from homes where divorce occurred within the first few years of their lives. Even parents who believe they are shielding their children from the parents’ interpersonal turmoil are generally not providing as much insulation as they believe.
Children who begin their day in a calm and nurturing environment tend to be more successful in school as well as interpersonal relationships. Since we tend to learn from our parents, the environment that is demonstrated at home is more likely to be repeated by the child outside of the home. While breakfast at school provides a valuable service it will never replace starting the day in a comfortable and nurturing environment at home. Scheduling a morning routine allows children to predict expectations and begin the day feeling as if there is order to the world.
Possibly the simplest and easiest way to accomplish this is to explain to the children that they have a regular bedtime that affords them the opportunity to get adequate sleep. For young children this may be as much as 10 hours per night. Beginning with that in mind, it is much simpler to assist children to get up early enough to prepare for school in a leisurely manner. What ever the morning ritual includes, it is best to include a quiet time at the breakfast table with parents. Adequate nourishment of mind and body begins at this time. Discussion of daily expectations can occur which will provide the framework for the child later in life to understand that anticipation of stressors is a major key to being able to relax and be calm.
When both parents can participate in this morning routine, the children begin to see cooperation and concern modeled for them. Everyone can be reminded of schedules and events so that things that occur unexpectedly don’t become the norm. If both parents are not able to participate it should not be because one, or both of them, has chosen to be absent from the family by sleeping in, playing video games or watching TV. This early-morning time is best accomplished with no television, video games or other electronic devices taking priority over interpersonal interactions of the family.
Regardless of the structure of the family, that is, the family of origin, nuclear family, blended family or any other name that is attached to the group that shares the home, morning consistency and scheduling are essential parts of the child’s well-being. I would recommend that every family look at how they start their day and begin to organize it in a way that provides for a calm and predictable series of events for the children.
Understand that this will not occur just because you decide that it will but will take perseverance and modification to fit your family. The interesting part of this exercise can be the almost immediate change in the mood of the family. I have a number of families report that once they start the morning schedule it is less than a week before the overall performance of their children improves.
Remember, life is built on choices. Your lives, and the lives of your family members, will improve when you truly begin to manage your life with things as simple as schedule.