Prevent Summertime Challenging Behaviors in Young Children
With children having more free time in the summer, behaviors in young children can be challenging.
Erica Breshears, an Early Head Start mentor teacher at the Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana, recommends keeping some form of consistency in your child's routine. This can be something as simple as nap time, bed time, or the time that they brush their teeth.
Simplify the Schedule
In the chaos of your summer schedule, try to keep some consistency in your daily routine and in your rituals; for example, bedtimes and napping schedule, the things you do to prepare for toothbrushing or going to sleep at night. If you can keep some of that predictable, then your children are going to feel more security and their anxiety levels are going to be reduced. All of that can prevent challenging behaviors from occurring.
If you know that changes are coming to your child's routine, if you can prepare them ahead of time, it will go a long way for them. For example, if you know that they're about to go on a sleepover with their grandparents, it would be good to discuss with them what that's going to look like, and also give your child some choices in adapting to that routine. When they pack their bag, let them choose their pajamas. What books are they going to let their grandparent read to them at night? What are a couple of toys that they will be able to bring. This will increaste their security and will make it more predictable in a new routine.
Leaving the House
Before you go, make sure you set up the rules and expectations for that new environment. If you keep it simple and clear, and focus on what the child can do, then you're really setting them up for success.
For example, if you're going to the library, practice talking with your child in a low talking voice. Then practice what a loud outside voice sounds like, so they really get the hang of how to talk in a library and have an appropriate voice level. Talk ahead of time about how long they're going to get to play the computer game in the children's area. Also, how many books are they going to be allowed to check out? Make sure you establish that ahead of time. Remind them where they're allowed to play, such as only in the children's area. These simple rules and expectations will be clear and understandable for your child, and help them be successful in that environment.
Make a "Go bag"
If you know you're going to be leaving the house, it would be good to create a "go bag" for your child. Wherever you take them is not necessarily going to be child-friendly. The "go bag" needs to have materials that will keep your child busy, help them be successful in sitting still and being quiet, with some toys to help them do so. Stickers, coloring books, or even books will help them be successful in different environments.
Snacks and Water
Providing and preparing healthy snacks and water is very important for your child. As adults, we need to be modeling that drinking water is good for us, so we need to also be providing water for our children throughtout the day, especially in the heat of summer.
If you can provide a healthy -- not sugary -- snack every two hours for your, it will go a long way to prevent the "hangry" challenging behavior in your child.
"Time to Talk" is produced with the Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana and BayouLife Magazine.