Do you have a child that gets easily distracted? Does your child lack in focus? Maybe they are absent-minded, hyperactive, impulsive, forgetful, and have a short attention span, and or have a difficult time paying attention?
Time management is a skill that can be challenging to learn as a child (and as an adult). If your child has one or more of the symptoms listed above, odds are that time management is also an issue in your home. As a parent, it is hard not to get frustrated and irritated when you are constantly late to school and other family events and commitments. Children with any of these symptoms tend to lack the cognitive ability to manage time and commitments well, especially when they suffer from inattentiveness and distractibility.
Don’t panic! I have some suggestions of things you can try in your home that might help – and I sincerely hope they do. First and foremost, stay calm. When you are running late…again and again day after day…try to stay as calm as possible. If your anxiety is running high, your cortisol levels will rise, and your decision-making skills and emotional control will suffer. In addition, your anxiety will transfer to your child and your child will in turn become anxious and escalated and it will only make it worse for the both of you.
Plan your daily routine and schedule in advance. Children appreciate knowing in advance what to expect and thrive on boundaries and consistency. When you have a child that exhibits the symptoms listed above, one of the worst things you can do for yourself and your child is wing it. If you do not have a concrete system in place, then it will more than likely be a losing situation for both of you. Plan your day together so you both feel involved and empowered.
Create a routine chart. Routine charts works very well for toddlers and school-aged children. It is very important that your chart has words and pictures for each item. Your chart should be clean and uncluttered and not have too many items listed on it. Keep your list short and concise. Having multiple lists for each portion of your day is highly recommended. If your child is old enough, they can tell you in order exactly what they need to accomplish in the morning before school, after school, and before bed. Thinking it and doing it use two different parts of the brain, so be patient with them. I personally like lists that have a box to check off when an item has been completed. Laminating your list and using a dry erase pen/eraser will help you do this. You can even find non-toxic pens now, so there is a safer and healthier option for you and your family. Your list should be easy to read, but if your child would like to color the list and or put stickers on it, that is ok, too. List items like 1) go potty 2) get dressed 3) brush teeth 4) eat breakfast 5) put shoes on. No item is too small. Do not take for granted that your child will remember even the smallest task or detail.
When your child gets distracted and off task, remind them about their list. When your child completes each item (and or all the items) on the list, praise them!!! Recognize their efforts because it is a difficult task for them! Give them a high five, a hug, a kiss, or even a sticker for their hard efforts and tell them how proud you are.
Your child wants to please you and do what they need to do, but there are chemicals in their brain that may help prevent them from actually getting these things done without your help. So be patient and supportive and hopefully you will start seeing positive changes in your home soon!