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Family Matters with Grainne Ryan - Getting IntoThe Autumn Routine

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Kids are back to school this week and that easy summer feeling is slipping away fast. Our parenting expert is here to tell us what to expect from our kids this time of year and her 5 step plan to put a routine in place.

Grainne Ryan:
Presenter of Baby on Board Series 2. Grainne is a public health nurse and midwife and mother of three children. Areas of interest child development, parenting issues, adolescent development and post natal depression and works as a public health nurse in Ennis Co. Clare.

What type of behavior can we expect from kids at this time of Year?
You will see a range of emotions, especially the first week back to school as kids try and get used to the early starts and homework.

. Clingy - some kids may be reluctant to leave your side; they may be shy, frightened or intimidated by their new school.
Solution: be mindful of emotions, if you are picking them up from school don't be late, if they don't want you to leave them at the school get, be firm, agree to walk them to the door but then teacher takes over.

. Cranky - this may be due to missing the freedom of the summer or they may not like the early start / morning rush.
Solution: be aware that kids will test boundaries, be firm but fair, allow them to express why they are upset and come to a solution together.

. Serious Temper Tantrums - This may be a deeper problem, remind yourself if they had problems last year? Learning difficulties? Problems with other kids or teachers?
Solution: Discuss with teacher

. Over Excitedness- Sometimes hyper activity can be just as tiring as a temper tantrum, this is not something to worry about.
Solution: Let your child express themselves, they will settle down naturally, if kids are this excited about school they will obey the teacher.

Why would they be acting up?
Parents are the best judge of their child. Most children will be missing the freedom of the summer and will eventually settle down, usually by the end of week 2 or 3.

Again, if there is a more serious underlying problem, e.g. learning difficulties etc, trust your child's teacher, they can work with you in helping your child feel better and settle in.

Why is routine so important at this time of year?
This time of year is hard on parents also; it is a big upheaval after the summer months. Essentially it is a transition period for everyone which may upset some children, routine is important because once everybody knows what's what in the household life will run that little bit smoother.

How do you get a routine in place?
Prepare in advance both parent and child. Explain that it is hard for parents as well, that is why everyone looks forward to the summer! Try to make it fun, talk about free time for when the child returns home or what you will do together at the weekend.

Grainne's 5step plan to getting a routine in place:

1: Make a timetable
At the end of this week sit down with your kids and make a chart, turn it into a fun art project and agree on specific times they have to be ready. Lay out the day on a chart or a timetable and stick it on the fridge or a blackboard in the kitchen!
Get up 7:30am
Breakfast at 8am
Leave at 8:30

Home Time
Wind down 3-4pm
Homework 4-6pm
Family dinner 6pm
Free time until 8pm ( depending on the child's age)

2: Organise television & free time
Agree with your kids how many hours of TV they are allowed to watch during the school week, let them pick there favorite shows and mark on a calendar.

Similarly if it's the play station or other games agree with them a certain amount of time allowed to spend during the school week.

3. Make the mornings as easy as possible
Mornings are a hectic time, kids and parents alike are all vying for the bathroom and trying to get out of the house on time. With your timetable already laid out you are already one step there!

. Have clothes, extra items for school ready the night before
. Make sure bags are packed and lunches ordered the night before.
. Try and get everyone to the breakfast table at the same time, talk about the day ahead, there is no point in screaming and shouting at kids in the morning, the more stressed you are the more stressed your child will be.

4. Talk about bedtime
All kids will push boundaries when it comes to bedtime, to ensure they get the proper rest for the next day follow these three points.

. Ease them into the process, agree one bed time for Sunday to Thursday and a slightly later time for the weekend, making weekend time a treat.

. Talk about it in advance, let them know that 8pm is pyjamas time 9pm is bed time

. Stick with it - Don't let them stay up longer than the agreed time. Maintain consistency / unity with arrangements.

5. Make it fun
There are plenty of things families can do to make routine fun, for example:

. When you plan your routine, use arts and crafts
. Be aware of their emotions and encourage them to express themselves, make it easy to talk about anything that is bothering them.
. Tell them about funny things that may have happened to you in work or at home, encourage them to share their day.
. Have small prizes or a star chart. E.g. If homework is completed before the allotted time and reward them with a small treat.
. Have races to put on pajamas etc.

Free time - Be mindful of too much extracurricular activities - all parents and kids need time to relax during the week, remember kids don't have to be in every sport club, dance class etc. Have one day during the week where you all do something together rather than rush them to and from school & extra curricular activities.

What if my child is being resistant?
. Stick with it! Consistency is Important -once the routine has been talked about and house rules are in place stick with the weekday routine!
. Children need boundaries; they will always try to test you! - This incorporates much of point one, make sure house rules are clear.
. Explore possible reasons for behaviour. Be careful not to exaggerate their anxieties - if your child is upset e.g. doesn't want to go to bed or won't get up in the morning for school - talk to them about their fears / anxieties.

Take into account individuality/personality of each child e.g. some kids like to get their homework out of the way as soon as they come home, always respect what your child wants.

Children should have the time to wind down after school, this will also help them express themselves, this is good for your relationship as they know they can talk to you about their day even if they got into trouble with the teacher.

TOP TIPS for settling into the Autumn routine:
. Consistency of routine by all in a parenting role
. Invest in child's individuality
. If possible parent take child to school and collect for first few days
. Promote confidence / praise
. Parents need to recognize work well done and reward kids with a treat