We are now turning our thoughts to picking up our lives from before the pandemic. Many are hoping to reinstate routines and previously agreed household rules which have gone by the wayside in recent times. It may be tempting to try to overhaul everything at once in our enthusiasm to embrace the “new normal”, but this may not be the most effective approach. It’s important to remember that we all need periods of transition as we change our behaviour and this is certainly true for our children too.
So, what is the best way to introduce new rules? It’s helpful to consider a limited number of household rules, say around 3 or 4. Many more than this are really difficult to monitor, which results in failure to enforce them and everyone quickly giving up. Think about what’s important for your family to function better and concentrate on those areas. Often, we have unspoken rules which are not referred to until they have been broken! It’s more effective to be explicit about your rules so that everyone understands what is expected of them. This is particularly important having had such a period of stress and uncertainty- rules can help young children especially feel reassured and safe.
Routines are also useful as they ensure that children experience a degree of predictability in their lives which is comforting and gives a feeling of being in control. Simple is always best as it is more likely to lead to repetition and ultimate success. Again, think of the most important routines first and target them. Young children enjoy following clear instructions and it can be helpful to support their routines with pictures showing the order in which tasks are to be completed. Some parents use photos of their child completing their daily routines to help them follow what they need to do and when. Most children find this type of positive attention very reinforcing. So remember, keep it simple, clear and manageable. Don’t forget to praise your child if he or she complete a routine or follows the rules. If you don’t praise them you might never see them do it again!