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Importance of a Daily Routine
Q: How important is routine in a child's life? My ex-husband and I have our three-year-old and five-year-old each 50 percent of the time. We both have significant others in our lives and the girls are close to both of them also. From time to time my older girl has an "emotional fit" where she does not seem to be within herself. She gets a glassy look in her eyes and does not seem to be completely coherent. The only thing that seems to help her is a bear hug to calm her down, which my therapist suggested. I feel that she needs to spend more time in one place, not equally in two places. I feel that more of the same routine in her life will ultimately make her feel more secure and perhaps lessen these "emotional fits". She is a wonderful child and usually is quite happy but once in a while this emerges. Do you think perhaps more of the same routine in one house would be good for her? Thanks!
A: To answer your initial question, How important is routine in a child's life? --- VERY IMPORTANT! Especially the lives of children the ages of your kids. Just think about the predictable bedtime routines that both your kids go through (I'm assuming they do) to transition them into the world of sleep. Being fundamentally powerless in a world of adults, kids cling to their routines to give them a sense of calm and control.
I am perplexed, however, with your description of your daughter's occasional glassy-eyed incoherent states that seem to come "out of the blue". Not to alarm you at all, but this sounds like the description of a seizure disorder more than it does a child being angry or disagreeable. Are these episodes brought on by certain situations or can they literally come "out of nowhere"? A bear hug would not usually be sufficient to arrest even a minor seizure, so I am unsure as to my guesswork based on the little I know. Given what you have described, I would like to consult with both a children's behavioral psychologist and a pediatric neurologist to determine whether or not there could be a psycho-neurological basis to her behavior.
It appears that your kids do, in fact, have an established routine. If these living arrangements are relatively new and the routines in both households differ greatly, then confusion and anxiety may be present. Your five year old is old enough to benefit from seeing a talented child therapist who could help her identify the reasons for her behavior; this therapist must be someone who suits your daughter's personality and can form a comfortable bond with her. I wish I knew more about this situation but I hope my suggestions can bring you some direction. With this many caring adults, I'm sure answers will be found.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.