Hinton loves routine.
He really does.
He has always had a sensitive temperament and slight lean towards the anxiety side of life.
Routine helps him know where he is, what is coming next, and he likes that.
We are at the stage now where he knows there is a period of time to wait (for digestion) between breakfast and going for his run – he will come to wherever I am and lie down patiently.
He knows once I start getting my boots on or getting his walking bag together (and working on the big questions – how many poos bags will we need today? which treats will do the job? which toys will keep the novelty factor high today?) the next thing is going out the door – so he goes to the front door and sits there waiting for me.
He knows when we are back what comes next – drink, chill and stuffed frozen kong on his bed, then sleep. As we follow this routine on the vast majority of days, he is a chilled, happy, peaceful pup (I know I can only use that word for a few more months!). IF he is asked to do something different – he will do it, but it is not too long before his confusion can become worry. I know his face and body language and behaviour languages well. I know how it can unsettle him.
AND SO IT IS… with children.
For so many children, this time of year in school is a blast – off the ‘lesson timetable’ – no spelling tests – (extra) fun versions of numeracy and lots of trips to the hall for practices.
For those who are more sensitive, those who maybe quieter, those who need routine to help them feel like the world (in school at least) is safe and predictable, this can be the complete opposite.
TIPS for making these days a bit easier for everyone
- Staff need to acknowledge this time of year is fun of some and hard for others.
Get it out in the open (without making children identify outwardly which they are – because if they find it hard and their friends love it, you have just made it EVEN harder).
“Some of us really like to know what is happening every day – and when we do the same things every day we always know what is coming next. The next few days in school might be a bit tricky because things are not the usual routine we have done so far this term… but there are many things that ARE Going to stay the same.”
- Have a daily class meeting – with visual timetable so everyone knows what is coming up. For those really anxious children, going through this at the end of the day before will help, so they know what they are coming too in school the next day.
- Remind everyone that they can come and tell you or other support staff if they are worried or would like to know about anything. (Don’t assume they will just do this).
- Watch for the worry, confusion, anxiety behaviours. How well can you spot them? How well do you know those children?
- Point out all the things that are staying the same in the day: (break time, lunch time, intervention groups, dinner ladies etc)
- Consider that any behaviour that emerges through these weeks, could be an expression of anxiety about less school routine OR worry about Christmas and the long holiday gap away from school support. Let’s find out if holiday worry is a factor in behaviour before we decide how much telling off this child needs?
- Have support staff and pastoral staff off their timetables as much as possible to be available to pick up and support those children who need closer contact during these days.
- Having simple, practical jobs to do with, or without adult support can help to focus a worried brain and provide a small sense of achievement at a time when inside the might feel like drowning in emotions.
- Be aware that some children will have been told that their behaviour at school will be seen by Santa and affect whether they get any presents. (This is not made up – I know of several children who have lived this)