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Consistency Benefits School-Age Children
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Starting school after the long summer break can be difficult, but having consistent routines can help young students quickly get back into the swing of things.
Dr. Louise Davis, extension child and family development specialist at Mississippi State University, said routines are especially important for young children.
"When children have schedules for what they do on a daily basis, they become accustomed to those routines, and they expect to do those activities every day. Consistency provides them with a sense of security," Davis said.
At the beginning of a school year, young students may feel overwhelmed by new responsibilities. Davis said having regular times set aside can help children accomplish things, like homework, with minimal anxiety.
"Some time to wind down or take a break after school often helps children prepare to do other activities in the evening. Having a snack or some play time are good transitions between school and study time at home," Davis said.
Routines help families complete daily responsibilities in an organized way.
"Having a routine doesn't mean that things have to be done at the exact same time every day. If a child expects to do activities in a certain order, such as having a bath and then reading before going to bed, the child has something to look forward to every night," Davis said.
Routines can also prevent behavioral problems.
"When children know exactly what is expected of them, they are more likely to do it. What they need is clear, simple directions and some consistency," Davis said.
Parents should strive to make their expectations appropriate to children's ages and abilities. As children mature, they should be allowed more opportunities for freedom.
"Schedules will often continue as children get older and more independent because they form good habits. Routines help children learn discipline," Davis said.
"Parents should try to guide their children and help them manage their responsibilities, but avoid being overly possessive, demanding or permissive," she said.
Davis said it's OK for parents to be flexible when making their children stick to schedules.
"Children really need to learn both flexibility and the importance of regularly doing their responsibilities," she said.
Some inconsistency is unavoidable, but when parents make it a way of life, children often feel dependent and confused.
"Developing habits such as study times helps children become more independent. Encourage children a lot during this stage, but don't feel the need to reward every independent behavior. Always allow children the freedom to take pride in the accomplishments they think are important," Davis said.