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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Three Approaches to Teaching Your Child to Be Kind

women holding preschool child

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We all want our children to be happy, well liked and good to others. How do we support our children in learning to be kind? This topic often comes up in fall as children make new friends at school, and it is part of the National Bullying Prevention Month messages. This year, we will want to use same approaches to online interactions since so many children are interacting with classmates, friends and family members through video chats.  

Children develop social-emotional skills in many ways. The three approaches that make the most impact are modeling role playing and playing games, and storytelling. Parents can help to build a foundation for their young children by incorporating these approaches in their families’ daily activities.   

Modeling – Act kind yourself. Modeling is by far the best way to instill kind behavior in your children. Children love to imitate us, and if we act in a kind manner, they will, tooPraise your children when they exhibit kindness, and explain why you thought what they did was a kind thing to do. It’ll become a habit. When you see kindness in others, share your thoughts with your children. “That was so kind of Jane to share her snack with you at school.” In an online situation, compliment your child (i.e., “You waited your turn to speak.  That was great!”). When our children hear the praise we give others, they will want to exhibit the same behavior. Try not to be negative, and redirect your children when they act unkindly. For example, explain how the other person may feel, talk about what your children could have done differently and help your children apologize.  

Role Playing and Playing Games – Create opportunities for your child to play. Your child will act out reallife situations while playing with stuffed animals, robotic toys and dolls. Interacting in unguided play with other children also supports learning to get along with others. Playing games can be part of dramatic play, tooGames help children learn to take turns and develop sportsmanship. Try games where your children need to collaborate with another player to win. Relay races, parachute games and family scavenger hunts are several good choices.   

Reading and Sharing Stories – Read stories where the characters must make decisions about their behaviors. Talk about the consequences of both kind and not-so-kind actions. Children learn through the stories by relating to the characters and the events. Here are some favorites that focus on kindness to get you started: 

  • If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson 
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët 
  • Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton 
  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace 
  • Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter 

You can also share stories from your childhood or from your family’s experiences. These are important to young children and can help them learn life’s lessons. 

 

Seven Ways to Help Your Children Develop a Positive Relationship with Food

three children eating ice cream

Candy is junk food. It’s not good for you.  

You need to eat your broccoli. It’s so healthy! 

You can have dessert after you finish your dinner 

Do any of these statements sound familiar? I’ve heard them throughout my life, so I have always labeled foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy and nutritious or junkWe are all trained to believe that foods can only be one or the other 

I never thought about the effects of labeling food until I became a mom. When my son started eating solid foods, I furiously searched for articles by nutrition experts who could tell me exactly what I needed to do to ensure he developed a healthy relationship with food. My own food insecurities took over my brain, and all I could think was, Will my sweet tooth be passed down to him so he’ll gorge himself on cupcakes all day? That wouldn’t happen on my watch! My goal was to raise a vegetable-loving, fresh-foodeating son.  

Did I achieve this goal? Well, no. Is my fridge filled with dinosaur nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Maybe. Have I given up? No. I’m proud to say that my son loves carrots.  

Is that the only vegetable he eats right now? Yes.  

I’m only human, and I’ve made some mistakes on my journey toward helping my son cultivate a healthy relationship with food. I’d like to share some of the insightful tips that have helped me reevaluate harmful attitudes toward food that I’ve learned. 

Do Not Label Foods as Good or BadThe first and most important step is to make a conscious decision to stop calling foods goodbadhealthy or unhealthywhich is something discussed in a previous article about how to handle sweets at home. Pediatric nutritionist Jill Castle recommends using the words nourishing or fun 

In an article on her website, Castle shares a real-life example of the harm that labeling foods may cause. She discusses a client who was frustrated that her daughter didn’t make healthier choices. The client would ask her daughter, Are you sure you want that?” and “Couldn’t you choose something healthier?” Her daughter did try to make good choices, but she felt deep shame about enjoying her “bad” choices, too. 

“Ultimately, [the daughter] became conflicted about food, which started to eat away at her self-esteem. She didn’t feel good about herself (or the foods she enjoyed eating) and knew she wasn’t meeting her mom’s food expectations,” Castle said. 

 To avoid unintentional harm, I like to use registered dietitian Jennifer Anderson’s method for discussing foods without labeling them. Read the text in her Instagram post to learn how to tailor your conversations to the ages of your children.  

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Do Not Pressure, Force or Bribe Children to EatPressuring children to eat can include pleading with them to take another bite, spoonfeeding them as they resist or bribing them with dessert. 

Young children are experts at understanding their bodies’ cues about food. They know when they’re hungry and when they’re fullIf we plead, force or bribe children to eat, we’re teaching them to ignore those cues. Using dessert as a bribe can lead over- or undereating as children focus on getting to the sweets. 

Alisha Grogan, a pediatric occupational therapist, says,“[] in the long run we’re accidentally reinforcing that the food that’s on their dinner plate really isn’t as good as the dessert. It sends the message that the food during the meal is something that just has to be endured to get the real prize.”  

Do Not Restrict FoodsSweet treats, fried foods and sugary drinks are everywhere. At some point, most children will develop a taste for themIf you don’t allow these foods in the house, it could cause a greater desire for them. This can lead to secret eating, binge eating and overeating 

Like adults, kids want what they can’t or don’t have. It’s human nature,” says Castle. 

Take away the candy, and kids can’t stop thinking about it. However, unlike adults, kids have less control over their biological drive to eat. 

 Maintain an eating schedule, and don’t stray from it. My son was a grazer, so we gave him snacks with milk or diluted juice throughout the day. Then, we were flummoxed when he wouldn’t eat during our main meals. Well, why would he? He ate all day. Once we set specific times for meals and snacks, we fell into a stressless feeding routine.  

Remember the Division of Responsibility. Renowned therapist, author and lecturer Ellyn Satter developed the Division of Responsibility to help make feeding your children less stressful. Basically, parents are responsible for what, when and where they serve their children food, and children are responsible for how much and whether to eat. Once I started to practice this method, mealtimes became much less stressful. I didn’t feel any need to pressure my son to eat, which meant he could listen to his own body and his hunger cues. I highly recommend reading through all of the resources from the Ellyn Satter Institute. 

Serve dessert with dinner. Wait, what? By serving a small portion of dessert with dinner, you’ve removed the feelings of restriction that can lead to cravings while making fun foods less of a novelty or soughtafter reward. When children know they get to have dessert and no foods are off limits, it can lessen their feelings of deprivation and guilt. They learn what a moderate portion is and how to incorporate fun foods into a balanced diet 

You don’t need to serve dessert every night or provide a fun food free-for-all. You can still set boundaries with your children, but your goal is to teach them balance. Jill Castle has some great tips for how to get started setting food boundaries. 

Repeatedly introduce new foods. Let your children get used to seeing new foods. My son’s reaction to them is usually “EWWW!” and that’s fine. Let your children know that they don’t have to eat the new food if they don’t want to, so there’s no pressure to eat – and no battles about eating! It can take children anywhere from 12 to 30 exposures to a new food before they’re willing to try it. 

Here are some other great ideas: 

  • Plant a garden together; 
  • Take your children grocery shopping and let them find fruits and vegetables they want to try; 
  • Prepare meals together; 
  • Try serving family-style meals. 

 Even if your children refuse to eat a rainbow of foods, it’s okay! It takes time, and your children’s limited eating habits don’t make you a bad parent. Give yourself a break, and please don’t compare your family’s dietary habits to anyone else’s. Even though my son isn’t interested in expanding his vegetable palate right now, we have gotten to a point where he will try a few new things – even if it’s a quick lick and a grimace. That’s a win in my book!  

Five Simple Tricks to Make Bedtime a Breeze

preschool child sleeping

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We often talk about how important bedtime is for little ones, especially as they return to school or begin a summer program. It has been made more difficult by the stayathome routines many of us have adapted to in recent months. Hopefully, you have been able to keep to some routine. If you have relaxed yours lately, now might be a good time to get back into the swing of things by giving your child some structure and taking some time for yourself. 

Making the transition should start with your child’s participation. Explain that we need to get our bedtime organized so we all get plenty of sleep. Ask your child how we can do that. You might be surprised by the answers. Being involved in the solution will help your child buy into the changes more easily. For younger children, give them a couple of choices such as “Which should we do first – brush our teeth and then get into our PJs or get into our PJs first?”   

Here are five more tips to help you along the way: 

  1. Have an actual lightsout time and stick to it. 
  1. Try to eat an earlier dinner not too close to bedtime. 
  1. Keep afterdinner activities to a minimum, slowing the pace as you get closer to bedtime. Watch a favorite show together, play a simple board game or work a puzzle.  
  1. Set up a routine chart for older children who can check off each activity as they go. 
  1. Make time for a calming moment – reading a story, talking about the day, planning for tomorrow or doing a few fun yoga poses together before jumping under the covers. 

Research has shown that when children don’t get enough sleep it has a negative effect on their attention span, behavior and emotions. Routines play an important role in helping your child get the sleep he or she needs. We hope you can get some rest as well.  

 

Dealing with the Ups and Downs of a Preschooler

mom holding preschool daughter

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Last evening, our neighborsparents of three children under seven, were sitting out on their porch steps, masked and full of coffee. They said hello as I (masked and at a distance) walked byI paused and asked, How’s it going? Kids asleep? and heard, Thank God” in unison. The mother continued, sometimes it’s been sweet and sometimes sour – very sour. I feel kinda hollowed out in the middle. I really love, both of us love, simply being together with them for more than just a snippet of the weekend, and other times, I feel bottomed out, discouraged.” I thoughtthere is the pandemic family anthem in a nutshell. 

Our young children are feeling much the same these dayskinda hollowed out in the middle, caught between the highs of being together and the lows of losing so much of their active physical and social life. That’s why they can go from angelic to demonic in a few hours or minutes. Parents wonder at such times if they are being good parents in the way they handle these huge swings. Their children know how clueless they feel about how to helpDisappointment is around every cornercan’t do this or that, can’t see your friends or grandma, have to wear that itchy, annoying face covering. As adults, we’ve learned something about coping with disappointment by now, but for our preschoolers and young children, this may be the first time they have had to confront it in such a huge dose. No wonder they and we are upset. They are missing out on some things that we know they need to keep growing up well. Helping them cope requires as much compassion and patience as we have ever mustered on their behalf.  

Advice:  

  1. When they are upset and need us to fix something, most of us just rush in with a tool or solution as soon as we can think of one. Don’do that, at least not right away. 
  2. Listen carefully through the tears for what is wrong. Say it back to them in your own words and ask if you got it right 
  3. Confirm that you get what’s so upsetting without judgment or even if you think it’s a bit ridiculous and that those kinds of feelings do hurt and make us sad. This compassion is less likely to soften your children than it is to strengthen them. It validates them and their feelings as more important to you at the moment than correcting some injustice. 
  4. Limit the amount of pandemic-focused information flowing at them through screens (especially back-ground TV) and from other sources, such as over-heard adult conversations. The most menacing, toxic force in the pandemic’s arsenal other than the obvious mortal threat to our health is its mystery; this scale of not knowing what’s coming is unfamiliar to most of us 
  5. Running on empty,emotionally and physicallyis very hard on everyone in the family. There are many replenishmentout there if you look. A favorite for families with pre-k children is Common Sense Media’s list of 26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Families to watch together. Turn off your phones, kick off the shoes and grab healthy snacks. Then snuggle up and let someone else do the entertaining for a while. Don’t forget to breathe. 

Dad’s Important Role in Parenting

Dad holding preschool daughtor on sholders with her arms stretched out

Dr. Kyle Pruett, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Fathers don’t mother, just as mothers don’t father. It is obvious from the start; they are less likely to use baby talk, choosing real words instead. They like their babies activated when they are interacting with them, while mom is more likely to comfort and cuddle tight. Play and surprise are more common in dad-infant interaction than with mom, who often prefers a soothing and regulating routine. Even the way a dad holds his baby, more commonly facing out than when mom does, hints at feeling his job might be different than hers – more of a let’s see what the world has for us today than I’ve got you safe and secure right here over my heart.  

Safety and security are huge concerns for today’s parents, both at home and in the wider world. So, which approach is more likely to raise a secure child? Both are, especially when woven together. Secure attachments between mothers and children seem most uniquely effective in providing comfort when the child is distressed. While fathers are committed to comforting their distressed children, there is a unique component to their interactions with their children. Fathers often provide security using shared, controlled excitement through sensitive and sometimes challenging You can do it! support as the child’s exploratory system gets stimulated by novelty. That roughhousing that is so common between men and their children serves a purpose; while it is fun and stimulating to both players, it also helps the father teach the child where the edge between play and trouble lies, No fingernails!  When the father lets the child wander off a little further than the mom might at the park, he’s allowing the child exploration and novelty, retrieving the child when something looms to threaten the security of such adventure. 

That distinction is worth celebrating this Father’s Day. It’s why dad is not just a stand-in for mom, who so often bears the weight of being the real parent. Helping children feel comforted when distressed is incredibly important to their sense of security and so is the support they feel from being fathered when they start looking for the world beyond mom’s arms.  

SoMoms and Dads, here are two tips to help you as you parent together: 

Moms – Support the fathering figures in your children’s lives with your appreciation and respect. They are not just subbing for you; they are your tag team in keeping your children secure and safe, not just from the world, but in it. 

Dads (biological and otherwise) – Turn off your devices and be in the moment with your children. They need to know, trust and feel the real you. Take your unique role as the securer of exploration seriously; they do. 

How to Ease Your Child’s Separation Anxiety After Quarantine Is Over

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by Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Separation anxiety is typical behavior in young children at the best of times. Worries and fears are a natural and adaptive part of development. During these past months, they have had the benefit of your continuous attention during the stay-at-home orders and for when they are returning to schoolThere will likely be some return of separation anxiety as your children adjust to the upcoming changes in their lives. 

 seperation-anxiety-cartoon

 Children who follow a more typical developmental progression will manifest some separation anxiety usually around 7 to 12 months, especially when their primary caretakers hand them to someone less familiar or step away from their immediate company. This is normal. Most of these children can be redirected with mild distraction or soothed quickly by a familiar loved one. In toddlers and preschoolers, these behaviors may manifest by crying at the school dropoff, but in a way that is usually brief and is pleasantly vulnerable to redirection with play or shiny objects. Seasoned clinicians and veteran teachers, alike, agree that to help children adapt to a playdate or school environment, parents must make such transition times quick and loving. This will support the teacher and child and will avoid sending any unclear signal that mom or dad will come back or linger if the child cries. Leaving fast helps everybody. 

If a family is worried that their child may be showing behavior that has not responded to the usual approaches outlined above, they might contact their child’s primary care provider for further assessment. I counsel these families to keep to the same routine when separating, when possible. For children of any age, consistency and successful separation experiences over time can lessen the intensity of symptoms. For preschoolers, there are even some behavioral health approaches to use when needed. Parent-child interaction therapy has been adapted to treat separation anxiety. Persistence, attention and a loving approach work well together.  

For most families with children with separation anxiety, those times of tears and crying can be difficult but thankfully soon become a forgotten phase of early childhood. For those children who persist to worry themselves and those who care for them, there are many ways we can help.  

Transitioning Back to School After COVID-19

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Returning to School after COVID-19 may be an anxious time for both parents and their children. Getting back into preschool and daycare centers may bring up big emotions from even our youngest students. When age-appropriate, let your children know that soon they will go back to School and be with their friends again, but things may be a little different when they return.

Here are some steps that parents and families can take to help their children make a smooth transition back to School:

  1. Drive to their School to familiarize your child with the setting. Seeing the School building will help jog your child’s fun memories of the building and all of their beloved friends and teachers inside.
  2. Communicate with your children. When age-appropriate, explain to your children how things may be different when they return, such as a smaller class size or teachers wearing masks.
  3. Assess your feelings.Young children can pick up on their parents’ nonverbal cues. If you feel guilty or worried about your child returning to School, he or she will sense it. The calmer and more assured you are, the more confident your child will be. If you are struggling with the idea of your child returning to School, think about the reasons why. Reassess your feelings. Don’t do something if you’re uncomfortable. Consider calling the School’s owner or director to learn about the new health and safety protocols put into place for children, families and faculty members.
  4. Establish the partnership.When you enter the classroom or meet teachers in front of the building for drop-off and pick-up, be sure to greet your child’s teacher warmly by name. Because of enhanced safety policies, parents may not be allowed to linger, so to ensure you’re doing all you can to keep children, families and faculty members safe, call in advance to find out. Then, let your children know about these new rules to help them understand and be prepared for these changes. If your child clings to you or is reluctant to participate in the class, don’t get upset because this may only upset your child more. Follow the guidelines described by the teacher or School and go at your child’s pace.
  5. Say goodbye. Saying goodbye may be hard for young children who have adjusted to being at home with their parents every day. As tempting as it may be to stick around, you should follow a predictable farewell routine to make leaving easier. Also, keep in mind that most children do well once their parents leave. Some parents wave from outside a certain classroom window, sing a goodbye song or make a funny goodbye face. It’s important to be consistent and do the following:
  • Always say a loving goodbye to your child and reassure him or her that you will be back to pick him or her up later. Once you do, you should leave promptly. A long farewell scene might only serve to reinforce a child’s hesitation about this experience.
  • Never sneak out. As tempting as it may be, leaving without saying goodbye may frighten a child.

If you would like more information about how Goddard Schools are responding to COVID-19, please click here.

Simple Activities to Practice Thoughtfulness and Empathy for Others with Young Children

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Increased amounts of time spent as a family at home provides a great opportunity to help your children understand their roles within your family as well as in the larger community. This article will outline three simple activities that can help your children practice thoughtfulness and empathy both within and outside your home.

Activity One – Messages for Your Community

Have a conversation with your children about members of your community who are essential to our everyday life, such as the sanitation workers, healthcare workers, grocery store workers and postal workers who deliver your mail. Then head outside with some sidewalk chalk and assist your children in creating messages that essential workers from your community might see as they head to work or do their jobs. Your children can leave messages for the mail delivery people near the mailbox or a note for the sanitation workers by where you set out your trash cans. The message could say, “Thank you for all you do” or “Have a great day.” They could draw uplifting pictures, such as smiley faces or sunshine and flowers. This will help your children consider other members of their community and how they can play a role in thanking them for all that they do.

Activity Two – Daily Chore Charts

Talk with your children about taking responsibility for some daily tasks while they’re at home all day. This might include chores, such as making their beds, getting dressed on their own, helping to care for a family pet or assisting with outdoor yard work. Take time to explain why each task might be helpful to another family member or help your children have a better day. Work with your children to create a chart that outlines the daily tasks that you have discussed. Set aside time each day for your children to complete their daily chores. This can be especially helpful during times that you might need to get something done and need your children to be occupied. You can create a goal for them, such as completing all the assigned chores for a full week earns them a reward, like a special dessert or an allowance.

Activity Three – Daily Reflection Art

Set up a space in your home with art supplies where your children will be comfortable working independently. Toward the end of each day, ask your children to draw or paint their favorite and their least favorite activities or moments of their day. Once your children are finished, discuss their artwork with them and why each moment was their most favorite or least favorite. This is a great opportunity to help your children feel comfortable discussing their emotions, understanding how their behavior affects others and discovering how to improve their behavior and their experiences day after day.

Encourage your children to consider their well-being and actions and the well-being and actions of others, which are important factors in fostering their social and emotional growth. In all activities, practice listening actively and being truly present with your children as you navigate your new daily routines together.

Supporting Children’s Positive Behavior While They’re at Home

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By Rorie Wells M.A., CPSI, Education Facilities Specialist – Playgrounds

Why more time outdoors might be the answer that you have been searching for.

Parents are being asked to juggle work responsibilities at home with caring for their children full time. It’s a lot to manage, but there is a simple solution to help cope with the stresses created by these new at-home scenarios while supporting positive behavior from your children. Head outside!

While restrictions have been put on many everyday activities, the CDC continues to recommend that children spend time outdoors as long as they are practicing social distancing procedures. This is for good reason, as time spent outdoors:

  1. Lowers stress levels.
  2. Improves mental health.
  3. Helps reduce hyperactivity.
  4. Promotes healthy development and physical fitness for children and adults.

Perhaps the most relevant benefit of spending time outdoors is that your child will come inside with an increased ability to focus on learning, allowing you to return to your other responsibilities. Here are a few tips for making the most of the outdoor time.

Go with the Flow

When heading outdoors, you don’t have to worry about a concrete plan for activities. Let your children lead the way in exploring their environment. You can introduce loose parts such as buckets, balls, toy cars, trucks or sidewalk chalk, or you can get creative with building, stacking and drawing with your children. Pose questions like, “What will happen if we do this?” or “Can you build a tower as high as your belly button?” or “Can you draw a picture of our family?” Follow your children’s interests for what to do next.

Observe Nature

If you feel you need a more concrete plan when heading outdoors, consider taking a nature hike and observing the world around you. Ask your children what they hear as you walk and discuss what they think is making those sounds. If you don’t have a trail nearby, you can head into your backyard or a nearby outdoor space and listen for different sounds.

Indoor Activities Can Go Outdoors

You can also take some of your children’s favorite books outside and have an outdoor story time or create a nature scavenger hunt and ask your children to find different natural items like something green, something rough, a piece of grass as long as their fingers, a piece of tree bark or a smooth stone. Simple questions and prompts open the door to more involved investigations and learning opportunities for you and your children.

The next time you feel overwhelmed with your dual responsibilities and your children’s behavior is becoming a little more difficult, head outside!

 

How Routines and Schedules help Calm and Comfort your Child

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by Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Children thrive when there are routines, rituals and schedules within their daily lives at home or school. They feel more secure, safe and nurtured. When there are changes in their environment, it can be stressful for our little ones. By establishing a routine, even if it is a new one, you will bring comfort and consistency to your children’s lives.

We also know that change can be a learning opportunity, and being flexible with our children at times can support the development of social-emotional skills such as risk-taking, self-control and independence. The key is to balance spontaneity based on what is happening around you and your children’s interests with a daily schedule that meets your family needs.

Include your children in daily planning and decision-making, like creating menus for the week to take the stress off mealtimes or deciding when to take breaks during the day for some outdoor play. Consider taking photos of different times of the day and have your children hang them in meaningful locations around the learning space or use them to create a picture schedule.

Important Basic Routines

These routines support positive mental and physical health:

  • Morning wakeup – getting ready for the day
  • Mealtimes and snack times
  • Bath rituals
  • Cleaning up – sorting and cleaning up toys, after mealtime, etc.
  • Bedtime – getting ready for and going to bed
  • Naptime (or quiet time)

These basic routines also help children anticipate what will happen during the day and help them focus on playful learning versus worrying about what’s next. By establishing these basic routines, you free up time for more flexibility in your child’s day.

Being in the Moment

Try to be more in the moment with your children when you are doing things with them. This focused attention, as you move throughout the day, will help your children follow directions and move from one activity to another. If you act distracted while directing or speaking with your children, they will be distracted too. It is often hard to do, but your loving attention is one of the most important things you can give your children. Switching your focus can be calming and soothing for you as well.

Handling Transitions

This is the time when things could get a bit rough, especially if your children are engaged in something they love to do. Transitions can at times make children feel they have no control over what is happening next. This can create tantrums, fears and tears. The best ways to handle transitions within a day’s routine are:

  1. Prepare your children. Let them know what is coming, for example, “In five minutes we are going to stop playing with trucks and get ready for lunch.” By preparing, you eliminate the surprise.
  2. Join in the transition. It is often easier if you work with your children during the transition. They will be comforted by your participation.
  3. Praise your children. Let them know what a great job they did in cleaning up, coming to the table, etc.
  4. Talk about what is next. Explaining what will happen next helps children look forward to it.

With all the changes that we face with a big shift in our daily lives right now, the consistency with routines you establish will help your children to feel safe, confident and secure.