Is your child having difficulty in learning to cope with minor changes in routine? It’s not uncommon for young children to struggle when there are disruptions in their normal schedule. Here, we’ll explore why some children have a harder time than others with changes to their routines and offer some tips on how you can help your child cope with sudden disruptions.
Exploring Kids & Routines
Routines provide children with a sense of security, stability, and control over their own environment. They know what to expect from their day depending on their activities, which can help reduce anxiety and stress. These things are important for children who have big emotions inside little bodies and are always being told what to do and where to go by someone else. It can be hard to cope with minor changes in routine.
How a Lack of Routine Affects Children
A lack of routine can be confusing and overwhelming for kids, especially those that have developmental delays, anxiety, or conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Disruptions in a child’s routine or a lack of any routine at all can lead to behavioral issues like tantrums, and autistic children can have sensory meltdowns where they become unable to process external stimuli.
Lack of routine can also cause sleep problems, as well as difficulties with eating and toileting. If your child is struggling without a consistent routine, it’s important to seek outside support.
Is It Tough for Your Child to Cope with Minor Changes in Routine?
For some children, learning to cope with minor changes in routine can be especially difficult to manage. Even minor changes can throw off their entire day and make it hard for them to function or even complete simple tasks that they are normally able to do without any issues.
When a child with anxiety experiences a change in their routine, it can be confusing and unsettling, causing them to feel a sense of panic or emergency. It can be especially tough for kids who have already experienced major changes in their lives, such as a move or the death of a loved one.
Another reason why some children struggle with changes in routine is that they may have difficulty processing information. The brain of an autistic child, for example, processes astronomical amounts of data all the time. They are frequently at maximum mental capacity, which can make small issues like a change in bedtime feel like the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Some autistic people struggle with adapting to new situations, which can make it hard for them to cope when things don’t go according to plan.
How To Help Your Child Cope With Minor Changes In Routine
If your child struggles to cope with minor changes in routine, there are a few things you can do to help them manage their emotions and adapt to the change at hand. Many children will grow out of this stage as their brains gain more executive function and begin to learn how to better process information.
Some children continue to experience this struggle well into adulthood and need extra support and tools to help them cope with both big and small changes.
Be Understanding & Patient
First and foremost, it’s important to be understanding and patient when your child is struggling with a change in their routine. Remember that for some children, even minor changes can be extremely confusing and stressful. It can feel like the world is crashing down on them all at once, even if it seems like something simple or uneventful to you. Try to provide reassurance and support during this time, even if the reason for the upset seems minor.
Try to Maintain a Sense of Normalcy
There will be times when you can’t avoid sudden or disruptive changes in your child’s routine. Try to maintain as much normalcy as possible during this time, such as emphasizing other routines that can stay the same or things that are familiar. This can help your child feel more secure and stable. If there are major changes, such as a new baby being born or a move to a new house, make an extra effort to keep some things the same or to slowly introduce your child to the new status quo.
Help Your Child Make a Plan
Another way to help your child cope with minor changes in routine that can’t be avoided is to help them make a plan. Children lack good executive function until their brains finish developing, around the age of 25. You can help your child manage changes by creating a visual schedule of the day’s activities or coming up with a plan for what to do if something unexpected happens. Having a strategy in place can help reduce anxiety and give your child a sense of control during times of change.
When to Seek Outside Support
If your child is struggling to cope with minor changes in their routine, this could be an indicator that you need additional support. Whether or not your child is autistic, understanding their unique needs and preparing to meet them is key to every child’s emotional, physical, and mental health and well-being.
At Opal Autism Centers, we help children and families affected by autism obtain the resources and tools needed to adapt, including diagnostic evaluations, individualized treatment plans, and social skills groups. Our goal is to support the family, not just treat the patient. We can help you discover solutions for behavioral issues, sensory processing challenges, and so much more. Contact us today to learn more or to speak with one of our team members by calling 888-392-8642.