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Predictability and Development

Learn more about predictability and development in your relationships.

As we learned earlier, predictability, or being able to know what to expect, is an important ingredient for healthy development. Predictable routines and consistent relationships provide a foundation of trust and security for children. When children know what to expect and who they can rely on, they have the confidence to explore the world around them and develop new skills.

Human development relies on predictability. When children do not have to worry if their basic needs (such as food, housing, and safety) will be met, they can focus their energy and attention on other things, like playing and learning. Predictability enables a child to know what to expect so the child can organize their behavior to be successful. For example, by learning the schedule and norms of a classroom, children can arrive on time, follow the rules, and engage effectively in learning and social interactions.

When circumstances change, children’s sense of predictability may be destroyed, even replaced by fear or uncertainty. Adults can help to create and maintain routines to provide a sense of predictability, even in the midst of change. A reliable caregiver who can provide support or reassurance is a key resource, particularly during times of distress or uncertainty.

Do you remember how Dr. Stephanie Jones and Rebecca Bailey told us about the routines they have with their children or in the classroom? In this step, we focus on simple routines in the home or classroom that can provide children with a sense of predictability in their daily lives. These routines can play an important role in comforting and protecting children.

Creating Predictability in Uncertain Times

Simple routines can range from schedules that make clear what is happening during a particular day or week, to short 10-minute rituals like a daily bedtime story or evening playtime that children know they can look forward to every day.

During challenging or uncertain times, routines and rituals can help children feel anchored – that even in the midst of chaos, there are predictable things to rely upon. For instance, if the adult caregiver a child typically relies on is unavailable due to changing circumstances, the child may feel less secure and may struggle to master new things or recall previously learned skills. Identifying another adult or sibling/peer who can provide frequent and predictable connection – such as through a daily phone call, morning check-in, evening playtime or read-aloud – can help rebuild and strengthen the child’s sense of security and normalcy. In situations like home relocation or when schools are inaccessible, children might miss the familiarity of the place and the routines that came with it. Creating new routines – such as a morning walk, evening music and cuddle time, or writing weekly letters to loved ones – can provide connection and predictability even amidst changing circumstances.

These routines act as an umbrella, helping to protect children from some of the stressful or disruptive aspects of life’s changes.

Start to think about routines you can create with the children in your life to help reinforce predictability.

Predictability Also Helps Adults

While a predictable routine has important benefits for children, it also has benefits for adults. Many adults cope better with changing circumstances if they can outline and divide time for childcare, work, and any other responsibilities. This also encourages adults to think about the time needed to take care of their own well-being. During rapid or stressful transitions, adults (especially caretakers of children) may forget to take time for themselves to rest, heal, process feelings, and connect with others. A simple routine can help adults make time for various responsibilities while also taking care of ourselves.

Start to think about what routines you have built or can build for yourself. Next week, you will learn more about the importance of your own well-being for children, and even make a self-care plan, which can include useful routines.


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Coping with Changes: Social-Emotional Learning Through Play

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