Reading time: 4 minutes
Suitable for: Families with children of all ages
Have you ever planned what you think is going to be the most wonderful surprise for your children, only for it to turn into a complete disaster?
Unscheduled trips, outings and events can seem like a great idea on paper: you picture your children’s excited faces as you break the news that today they are off for a day trip! You imagine them leaping out of bed and dashing out of the house, squealing happily with joy and anticipation. Who doesn’t love a bit of spontaneity, after all?
Except…sometimes it doesn’t work out quite like that. Instead, there are floods of tears as your confused offspring struggle to comprehend what is going on. They are grouchy from being woken up too early; they demand to know why they have to miss their usual clubs and they are anxious about where and when they are going to have lunch.
Essentially, you’ve interrupted their routines and thrown their day into disarray. So much for surprises, hey?
Routines as a safety blanket
Routines play a vital role in everyday life. Most importantly, they help children feel safe and secure by providing a sense of consistency and calm. Children - and adults - thrive when they know what is coming next. Well-established routines help children feel in control of their lives and most enjoy this feeling of predictability and normality.
When children are able to anticipate what is happening in their environment and follow the same step-by-step patterns on a daily basis, they feel safe. More often than not, behaviour is triggered by feelings of hunger, tiredness and overwhelm, so developing simple, clear routines around mealtimes, bedtimes and screen-time, for example, can help children confidently navigate life’s ups and downs.
With routines being such a central part of family life, it’s little wonder that some children can become upset and disorientated when routines change, especially without warning. Sometimes, autistic children in particular can struggle with any interruption to their usual patterns and can find any departure from ‘normal life’ highly distressing.