Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Prevention can go a loooong way

Rest before you’re tired, eat before you’re hungry, and drink before you’re thirsty. LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey said “people overestimate their ability and underestimate the danger.” This advice is especially relevant when it comes down to parenting. Once you’re tired or overwhelmed it is too late. And the same happens to your child. A lot of meltdowns can be avoided by just establishing a routine that includes eating and sleeping times, and sticking to it. Prevention can go a long way, and is the most cost-effective strategy. As we discussed previously in these blogs, once meltdowns occur it is too late and more challenging.

Downtime, unexpected changes, too many or too little activities, lack of physical outlets, are a recipe for disaster. Lack of predictability increases anxiety, which leads to problematic behaviors.

I know, sometimes it is difficult putting them in bed or having kids come to the dinner table. And because you want to avoid a struggle, they get their way. But this only makes it more difficult for you because they learn how to obtain their objectives.

As it happens at school, children get used to predictable schedules and respond to it automatically. You have them on “cruise-control.”
Some tips worth to remember:  

-        Keep times, places and people in charge as consistent as possible. Start with the “must do’s”: meals, bed time,homework, etc.

-        Adjust the environment to focus on the activity. For example, turn off the TV when it is bed time.

-        Present scheduled activities in a positive manner. Do not be overly rigid. Some flexibility is necessary.

-        Include free and play time: children need it.

-        It is very important to allow time for transitions between activities. For example, when your child comes from school he/she typically will need some free, unstructured time. Or when transitioning between activities. Prepare the child ahead of time. For example: "It is almost dinner time, so you will need to come in soon. Be ready to put your toys away".

-         Have preferred activities follow non- preferred activities. In order to be able to do the desired activity, the child has to finish the undesired activity. For example, "homework first, then play"; or "bath first, then video". First “must do’s”, then “can do’s.” It can be helpful to present it in a visual schedule format. Here is a link where you can find tons of creative ideas:  https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1078&bih=513&q=visual+schedule&oq=Visual+sch&gs_l=img.1.0.0l10.2756.7943.0.11665. 

Choices can be built into the schedule by allowing the child to choose between 2 activities, such as "bath or shower", or "going to the park or to the store", or "video or TV".

And make some time to spend quality time with your kids where they can choose the activity and be the boss. In plain English, have some fun with them.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

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