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Stress-free Strategies for Kids to Build Independence with Routines

executive functioning, independence, kids

Back to school time brings a lot of excitement, but parents and kids both have to adjust to new routines and expectations once the novelty wears off.

By now, you've attended your child's back-to-school curriculum night, meet the teacher visit, or open house and have been awed by the Pinterest-worthy classroom that your child's teacher has created! While it all looks colorful, polka-dotted, and attractive, I promise you there is a reason behind almost every visual...increasing your child's independence!

As therapists and teachers, we know that every child needs a certain level of "prompting" to help us remember, answer, or behave. These prompts could be subtle touches on a shoulder, a stern look, a gesture, or a leading question. The visuals in your child's classroom prompt him/her to follow classroom routines & rules, complete morning jobs, understand new concepts, or find necessary information/materials. In a class of 18+ kids, these visuals also allow the teacher to spend more time teaching, and less time answering the MANY questions that would ensue if children were left without these strategies.

Now, think about your morning and after-school many times do you need to prompt your child to get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, eat breakfast, get your backpack? How do you communicate after-school plans or expectations for homework? Do any of these routines cause you and your child stress at home? Could your child be expected to do more for him/herself? Remember, everything that you do at home to support your child's independence will help him/her be a more independent learner, problem-solver, and active participant in life!

Try these stress-free strategies to support your child's independence:

* Make a visual using pictures (or words) for daily routines - We love the idea of these back-to-school story stones DIY at SugarAunts but Pinterest is a great resource for printable routines that may work for your family

* Create a "Family Command Center" for your calendar, to-do's, and homework station. Just like your child's classroom, develop a set of "House Rules" that outlines any expectations for chores and homework.

* Use a family-style weekly calendar that clearly identifies after-school plans. By giving your child notice of tomorrow's activity, he/she can be expected to pack any gear that might be needed!

* Keep "chore-lists" to 2-3 basic tasks that your child can be successful with (without your help or reminding). Make these a part of the family command center and include a check-off system that helps with accountability.

Lastly, remember that as much structure and routine as children get during the school week, you want to balance that with unstructured free play that gets them jumping, climbing, and creating! By adding some visual supports to your home, you and your children will spend less time wasting time, and more time having fun!


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