Providing Structure and Predictability in a Fluctuating Household

Parents may be familiar with the idea that structure and predictability are instrumental in rearing happy, well-adjusted children. But what about households where frequent change is an unavoidable part of daily life?

For families with a parent in the military, divorced parents with two households, families with children who have multiple activities, and countless others, creating structure and predictability can present a considerable challenge. Parents in these situations may most benefit from moving past the notion that structure and predictability are synonymous with unyielding consistency.

For households grappling with frequently changing schedules and demands, however, three essential steps can minimize stress.These are:

  • Making behavioral expectations clear and responding consistently when expectations are not met.
  • Creating weekly calendars to provide children with a visual representation of what to expect each day (e.g., soccer practice, who will be picking them up from school, etc.).
  • Establishing rituals to ensure a sense of predictability; a ritual can be as simple as having game night on Wednesdays, or Sunday breakfast as a family.

For children who have to change households, parents may wish to read a story with their child upon arriving at the new house.  If a parent travels frequently, he or she can Skype at a regular time each day, or create a ritual for when they leave and/or return.

These rituals make transitions smoother and can decrease stress or anxiety children associate with the changes.  They do not need to be time consuming or extravagant, just consistent and predictable.

If you feel your child or family are in need of additional support, beyond what can be satisfied by these recommendations alone, please contact us at Georgetown Psychology Associates to schedule an appointment or for more information.