Change is an inevitable part of life, and for children, alterations in daily routines can be particularly challenging, often sparking a mix of frustration, anxiety, and behavioural changes. In this blog, we’ve got four strategies to enhance communication with your child to support them during these transitional periods.
Try these strategies to support your child's transition to school this year.
Understanding the Challenge of Change:
When children are confronted with unexpected changes in routine, they may exhibit a variety of emotional and behavioural reactions such as frustration, anger, withdrawal, anxiety, and rapid emotional escalations. These reactions can hinder their communication abilities, increasing stress for both the child and parents.
Speech Pathology's Vital Role:
Speech pathology plays a crucial role in addressing these challenges. Therapy focuses on helping children:
Effectively articulate their thoughts and feelings.
Develop the linguistic tools to express emotions.
Foster problem-solving capabilities.
Cultivate critical thinking and enhanced problem-solving skills.
Alleviate frustration and anxiety through constructive language and dialogue.
Strategies for Effective Communication:
To support your child through changes in their routine, including their transition back to school, consider these practical and effective strategies:
1. Empowerment through Decision-Making:
Involve your child in simple decisions like choosing their clothes or items to take with them. This fosters a sense of control and empowerment.
Offer Choices Within Boundaries: Provide children with limited, age-appropriate choices in a safe, structured environment.
For example, let them choose their outfit from a pre-selected set of clothes or decide between two healthy breakfast options.
2. Encourage Participation in Planning:
Involve children in planning their daily or weekly routines, like choosing the order of their after-school activities or selecting a family game for the weekend.
Respect Their Preferences: Pay attention to your child's likes and dislikes. If they express a preference for a particular activity or routine, try to incorporate it when possible.
Allow flexibility within daily routines. For instance, let your child decide the order of doing their evening tasks - whether they want to do homework first or play for a while.
Promote Problem-Solving Skills: When faced with a small challenge or decision, encourage the child to think of possible solutions. Offer guidance but allow them to arrive at their decision.
3. Use Visual Aids:
Utilise visual supports such as illustrated schedules, countdown calendars, and social stories to mentally prepare your child for upcoming changes. These provide a visual representation of your child’s daily activities and routines.
These schedules are typically made up of pictures, symbols, or words that represent different tasks or events in a child's day, arranged in the order they will occur.
Visual schedules help children by:
Providing Structure and Predictability: Many children, particularly those on the autism spectrum, thrive on routine and predictability. Visual schedules help them understand what to expect next, reducing anxiety and confusion.
Supporting Understanding: For children who have difficulty with verbal instructions, visual schedules offer a clear and comprehensible way to understand their day and give the opportunity to discuss any upcoming changes in their expected routine.
Assisting in Transitions: Transitions between activities can be challenging for some children. Visual schedules can help ease these transitions by preparing the child for what comes next.
Enhancing Communication: They serve as a communication tool for children with limited verbal skills, allowing them to express their needs and understand others' expectations.
4. Language Matters:
Openly discuss the change, validate their feelings, and engage in open-ended conversations. Phrases like "How do you feel?" or "I understand" can be very reassuring.
Clarity in Communication is essential: Use clear and consistent terminology your child understands. For example, if using phrases like "kiss and ride," ensure they know exactly what it means to avoid confusion.
5. Gradual Introduction:
Introduce new routines slowly. This might involve visiting new places beforehand, using tools like Google Maps, or creating a photo book to familiarize your child with new settings.
Navigating changes in routines can be a complex process for children. However, with the right communication strategies and the support of specialized speech pathology, you can empower your child to approach these changes with confidence and ease. By involving them in decision-making, using visual aids, and employing clear and empathetic language, you can significantly reduce anxiety and facilitate smoother transitions.
For speech pathology services in Newcastle tailored to your child's unique needs and interests, reach out to our practice.