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Help for Behavioral Issues: Creating Structures for Consistency

Child behavioral issues can be challenging and frustrating for the entire family. As a parent, you may notice that if you don't maintain a strict daily structure, your child's symptoms worsen and they become more difficult to manage. Regardless of whether your child has a diagnosis or not, consistency and structure are necessary components to healthy development.

Routines Encourage Confidence

Especially for children with ADHD, learning disorders and other behavioral issues, it is important to eliminate confusion and disorder throughout the day. This begins with building a simple routine that you can follow regularly. The best environment is a predictable one in which children can learn and grow at their own pace. When sticking to a routine, children will start to become familiar with what comes next in the schedule. Thus, their ability to anticipate outcomes and work with others will gradually improve, while any anxiety and feelings of helplessness will be minimized. From this place of stability, children can get to know themselves and explore small and manageable changes without feeling overloaded.

Simple Is Best

If your child is opposed to structure and tends to rebel against or ignore it, start small. It is best to avoid creating a rigid schedule and start immediately trying to enforce it. This can cause resentment or conflict between parents and children. Instead, begin with something easy, such as having dinner at 6:30 and doing homework immediately after. Once this is in place, you can slowly introduce more productive things into an evening routine that your child enjoys.

Give Them Initiative

By asking for your child's input, creating structure becomes a fun project rather than another thing enforced by an adult. Ask your child to help in the process of creating a routine. Give priority to activities they particularly enjoy or are able to focus on for long periods of time (besides TV!). You will be the one who guides the routine in a more structured direction, but simply getting your child's opinion will show them that the routine is designed for them -- not to oppress them.

Another way to give a child initiative is by creating an environment in which helping is fun. Again, framing chores as a forced activity will feel negative and the child will naturally push against it. But letting the child help adults with activities will make them feel included and mature. For example, after dinner, everyone helps clear the table. Make your child feel that they are not alone in the routine, but that it is instead a family routine and their participation is natural.

Consistency and structure teach children healthy habits and introduce self-care. As distractions and options are minimized, children can focus on the task at hand.

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