This is Day 9 in 31 days to Loving Sensory Parenting. You can see all the posts so far here.
“Children need to know what to expect,” says Anita Landau Hurtig, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. (Parenting Magazine)
Bernard Arons, M.D., director of the Center for Mental Health Services, in Washington, DC. “A child learns how to approach the world by observing the behavior and values of the people around him. The more consistent the messages he gets, the more stable he feels. Without consistency, kids have a hard time controlling themselves.” (Parenting Magazine)
In our house we have created this almost haven like environment for Miss Sensory. A place she feels loved and a place where she feels safe. Safe enough to let out her meltdowns from dealing with the outside world.
One of the ways we’ve done that is by having consistent systems. This is really tough between a mom and a dad. We try to recognize that mom and dad will sometimes do things differently and we pre-worn Miss Sensory. But, for the most part we try to do things in a similar manner.
During Miss Sensory’s toddler years this was really the key to our survival. Everything had to be consistent. Our routine had to not miss any steps or else everything would fall apart. Consistency provides her with a sense of safety. She knows that before she goes to sleep she will get to snuggle in bed for stories with Mom and Dad. She knows that if it is below 50 degrees outside she will have to wear pants.
Consistency for us is about drawing a line in the sand. Here’s where we are and what we need to do and how we are going to do it. No deviations. There’s a predicability in consistency that helps Miss Sensory get from point A to point B. When I pick her up from school I always try to park on the same side of the building and I always try to stand on the same side of the hallway. She knows right where I will be and right where we need to go.
I know that this all sounds a little, well… overwhelming. And, I know that the world doesn’t revolve around my child. It is healthy to add small changes to develop the ability to navigate inconsistencies in life because they will happen. But overall I’m finding sensory parenting to be more about the baby steps than the giant leaps. Change needs to be presented in baby steps not in jumps. Consistency is the key.
As I am writing this I just heard Sensory Dad and Miss Sensory come in the door from outside. I overheard Miss Sensory say, “Dad you put this is in the wrong place, my backpack always goes here and my sweatshirt always goes here.” This is progress people- 2 years ago she would have had a meltdown over it. Now she can verbalize that they go in different places and she can fix it!
The thing about consistency for me is that when I make our routines and life consistent it easily becomes a habit. And when it’s a habit it seems less like a chore. I think it feels that way for our Sensory kids as well. Consistency calms them, gives them a sense of order and something tangible in there day. They hold on to what they know is coming next. It anchors them as they navigate the world.
Parenting Magazine quotations from the article “The Need for Consistency.”