Everyone, young or old, needs some type of routine to establish a bit of normalcy in their day to day life. It’s no different for children. A routine is said to bring some consistency to a child’s life. Read on to know more
BY ADITI SHEORAN CHHAJTA
Most parents would agree that it is tough to set a consistent routine for their babies. Yet, most of them painstakingly try to do so. New parents are faced with finding the elusive balance between their own priorities and daily chores, while coping up with the ever-evolving demands of their baby. For some, this can mean succumbing to the pressure, letting spontaneity take over; for those who keep trying to establish a schedule, their hard work and consistency definitely pays off. This means they’re prepared for the worst, should anything unexpected arise. These are the parents that also tend to be happier and more organised. But, who do you think benefi ts the most in all this? Their babies! Here are a few subtle, but life-altering gains of structure and routine for your toddler.
Comfort and confidence
If there is a schedule to follow, even if it’s in the form of a semiregular sequence with a few alterations or variations in the day, it gives the baby a sense of certainty and reassurance. The power of anticipation provides comfort and helps the toddler grows into being more confident and aware of his surroundings and in turn, of himself. A structured environment lays a strong foundation for a child to be more effective. As time passes, the child becomes confident enough to take on small changes, which eventually serve the purpose of keeping him grounded or in control when faced with bigger life-altering decisions in later life. Dr Payal Sharma, a paediatric oncologist at a leading hospital in New Delhi, points out how a schedule is as important as is consistency in the child’s environment. “It is important for a child to have a specific primary care giver for the initial years at least. Kids don’t have a lot of control in their lives, but consistency in their environment and a schedule can help them predict things and give them a sense of stability and comfort. This is important for their physical and intellectual development. An organised and predictable home environment, helps all children feel secure, which can have a superlative impact on their overall health and personality,” she says.
Babies tell us what they need. A routine that is set as per the child’s need will eventually help them take ownership of it. This can eliminate constant power struggles between the parent and child. When a baby realises her sleep time starts at 9 pm every night, while it may seem like the parent is pushing a plan, sooner or later she will end up easing into the schedule. Naturally, it is very important to build a routine that suits both you and your child.
The routine will not just make the day look easier but will also give more quality time to the parent and child to strengthen their bond. They will be able to find pockets of time having fun together and being more attentive to each other, without being distracted.
A predictable routine can give early lessons in organisation, time-management and patience. A toddler understands that while she may want to head to the park during the day, she may not be able to do so until later in the evening. The child will end up fussing much lesser as she is sure of what comes next.
A routine can help foster some good habits. For example, daily activities like brushing teeth, bathing, spacing meals appropriately, play time, sharing stories or reading before bed-time etc. will pay dividends lifelong.
Precious ‘me-time’ for the care giver
It is not just the baby who enjoys the benefi ts of an anticipated sequence of events through the day, but also the parent. Once you gauge when your baby will feel sleepy, hungry or have highactivity levels, you can then start to plan your work around that schedule. This not just helps you feel less hassled, but also more productive as a result. Before you know it, the routine starts running seamlessly on auto-pilot, without much effort. Needless to say, this also gives the parents more ‘alone time’, something that is truly important.
However, it pays to be a little cautious in your approach: Sensitivity is key
The one thing that needs to be kept in mind is that a routine that has been imposed on the child will result in an adverse impact. Most babies end up following a predictable pattern. Parents just need to be attentive to the needs of their toddler and start building the schedule accordingly. Dr Payal further points out, “When a care giver consistently responds to an infant’s needs, it sets the stage for the growing child to enter healthy relationships with other people throughout her life and to appropriately experience and express a full range of emotions.”
Change is constant
Once a basic schedule is established, allow room for some flexibility. This will curb boredom from setting in and keep the child happily anchored to the schedule. Play indoor games on an evening when it’s raining, or hop by a friend’s place instead of the park one evening. The idea of having a routine is to keep stress at bay for you and your child. There is no point in being too stringent in your approach, as perfection is neither possible nor desired.
But above all, talk to your child, understand her needs and work from there. Sometimes, you child will tell you exactly what she needs; it’s up to you to understand and intercept the signs. | MB