How many times a day as adults do we check our watches, our cell phones, our Blackberries, our schedule books to see what’s happening next in our day, our week, our month? I’m in the habit of checking my schedule for the next day before going to bed. There’s something about seeing things in print and reflecting on them for a few minutes that allows me to be peaceful and comfortable in the knowledge of the next day’s activities.
Children, especially our youngest, often don’t know what to expect from hour to hour and day to day. Often, we appear to swoop in, bundle them up in their jackets and zoom off with little more than a “let’s go”. This unpredictability and lack of understanding can make children feel anxious and stressed, leading to challenging behavior and an unhappy experience.
That’s where foreshadowing comes in. Foreshadowing is creating for your child a mental picture of what’s going to be happening for her. ” Tomorrow, Grandma will pick you up from preschool, take you to her house for lunch (she said she’s making your favorite, french toast) and then Daddy will pick you up when you have finished eating.”
Whether company’s coming to your home, or you’re visiting friends in another town, going to call on Great- Aunt Sadie at the nursing home, or just meeting up with your friends at Play Shoppe, inform your children. Start this early – even as you are changing your new-born’s diaper. Tell them what to expect, how long it will take, who will be there, what they’ll be able to do. This is a good time, if going to a place that is not that child-friendly, to plan with your child what he can bring along for entertainment.
For big events, like going to the hospital to give birth (where will your child be and with whom and for how long ) , starting preschool or going on a trip, share the story often. Your child will gain confidence and trust from understanding just what will be happening and how he/she fits in.
When our children are informed, when they know where they are going and what they’ll be doing, their self-assurance, understanding and cooperation will grow strong. As the little boy in the restaurant said, in amazement, to his parents when the waiter gave him a menu too, “He thinks I’m Real!”, your child will feel real – secure – included and ready for what ever is happening.