How do you create and maintain structure for children?

Eight helpful hints for parents

Bucaro, Diane 02

Diane Bucaro, LCSW, is a therapist at Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Wauwatosa

Have you ever had a parent tell you that every morning they are 15 minutes late to work? Or that their child is  glued to their favorite cartoon and they need to do their homework, chores, and get ready for bed in the next 30 minutes?

Here are some general tips/guidelines I use with parents.

1. Most kids respond well to a routine. Whenever possible have consistent bed times, wake up times, and meal times. (Per Super Nanny 4:30-5:30pm is the best dinner time for children younger than age 5. Obviously, this will depend on work schedules, do the best you can given your family’s needs).

2. Sleep is essential. Children between the ages of three and six need 10 to 12 hours of sleep overall. By age four or five, children typically have outgrown a nap. Children ages seven to twelve need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

3. Have the parent do their best to offer nutritious foods. Parents can have a pad of paper in the kitchen to jot down meal ideas or if you are running low on an item. Preparing meals ahead of time to heat up when you get home, and researching crockpot recipes can be very helpful for busy parents. It is also wonderful to have at least 3 “go to meals” — something that can be made quickly and easily at home (pasta, sandwiches) that is not the drive thru at the nearest fast food chain. When it comes to new foods and specifically vegetables it is also helpful to remember that it may take several trials of a food before a child may say they “like it”.

4. Have house rules and established consequences for “broken rules”. If parents have established consequences they are less likely to become “heavy handed” or ignore them and regret this later. However, sometimes ignoring is an appropriate strategy. An example of appropriate ignoring maybe when the child burps loudly at the table and is looking directly at the parent for a reaction. In situations like that, any reaction plays into the child’s hands.

AUR_108443959 (1)When applicable, use positive reinforcement such as “good job, I’m so proud of you”. Make a behavioral chart or plan for things that may be more difficult for that child. The parent can develop a token system for a specific time frame of positive behavior.

Dr. Matthew A. Johnson, has developed a system called “Positive Parenting with a Plan” which has specific guidelines to use positive and negative reinforcements for behavior.  He has written a book for parents if they need more help to guide behavior for children ages 5 and up. Some kids respond well to time outs or having treasured objects taken away for a short period of time (1-7 days, the younger the child the shorter the time).

5. Organization: a place for everything. This can be essential to get out the door on time. Have a place for coats, shoes, backpacks and papers. Often we take off items off near the outside door or set down bags, unload items. This area can soon be cluttered and in disarray, especially if there are multiple children in the home. Have a system where kids stuff hats and mittens in their coat sleeves as soon as they take them off. Another option is to set out a basket for hats and mittens. Have a system for kids’ school papers after they have completed them. Have items ready the night before school/work.

6. Have adults be positive role-models by taking good care of themselves and overall showing displays of good citizen. Example, you find an iPhone at the library and you turn it into lost and found.

7. If possible, have a support network of relatives and friends that are positive or may understand what it is like to be raising children or may even be able to give you a break from time to time.

8. Screen time, less is more. If you think about it the more time in front of a screen is typically the less time for exercise, academics, creativity and social interaction. Some families decide to have regular TV times, computer or game times as a reward. I often recommend for the television to be off when getting ready for school in the morning, as well as during meal-times and homework times.

If a parent is really struggling with challenging behaviors or there is a concern that the child is often sad, angry, aggressive, inconsolable or having some other social/emotional distress it can be very helpful to have the child/family assessed for therapy services.

For more information, contact Aurora Psychiatric Hospital at 1-877-666-7223 or visit the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital website.

 

 

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