How to Manage Changes in Routine (and other causes of stress) for young children

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The summer holidays are round the corner! School holidays with children are wonderful, but there’s no shame in admitting that sometimes it can also be challenging. For some children, holidays can cause stress for a number of reasons including a change in their routine, more time spent with siblings, more free time/less structure to their days.

So what can can you do to help? 

Parents are the experts when it comes to their own children and what works with one child doesn’t necessarily work with another. But here are a few things that I’ve found can help children over holiday periods:

  • Try to maintain existing routine/ establish new version of routine– Children often thrive on routine, they like to know what to expect from their day. If they are of school age, they will be used to their set routine of school and can often feel a bit lost during the holidays. Establishing/ maintaining a routine at home doesn’t have to be difficult- it can simply be pictures/words on a piece of paper to show the  Child the various different parts to their day such as getting dressed, breakfast followed by a trip out/play with toys etc. Discussing, planning and referring to their routine regularly throughout the day will help children to gain a sense of ownership and control over their routine.
  • Consistency – we’re all guilty of bending the rules once in a while, especially when the kids are off school. However, many children thrive on consistently and this includes behaviour management and rewards (see my post on the importance of rewards here) Keeping the boundaries and rules consistent is often beneficial and helps children to know where they stand, making them less likely to test them.

  • Fairness– Holidays often means spending a lot more time with siblings and inevitably issues such as fairness arise. This can be particularly difficult when children are of different ages. Trying to ensure things are fair between siblings is difficult but can avoid many fallings out. Encourage children to think about disagreements from other peoples point of view and get them to discuss if they think things are fair or not for others. Involving children in discussions on fairness can help them take more responsibility for it.
  • Special time– With the guests and family gatherings over the Christmas and other holiday periods it can be difficult to spend quality time individually with children. But carving out some special time with children is important to them. It doesn’t have to be a full day, or even half a day- but just a simple few minutes of reading a book before bed or playing a game can make a big differnce to children’s emotional wellbeing.

  • Model good behaviour– we as parents often set the tone of day. I find if I’m stressed about something, my children’s behaviour is more difficult. If I argue, my children will argue. And if I’m positive and happy- so is everyone else! They can sense the atmosphere and tension and react to it accordingly. They also copy and learn from how we deal with situations. Remembering this and trying to model appropriate ways of dealing with stress can help children to develop their own strategies. It’s important to show children that we, as adults, can find situations difficult too- but try to use it as an opportunity to show them how to deal with it in a positive way. I do realise that this isn’t always possible and in these circumstances asking for support and help from others can help.
  • Fresh Air– Sounds ridiculous, but never underestimate the power of getting out of the house as a family for a quick blast of fresh air and walk round the block! Many a time this has helped me to deal with challenging days! Fresh air and exercise often works as a ‘reset button’ even on the most difficult of days.

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