My oldest son is a very emotional, sensitive child. He often needs time to mentally prepare himself for any change that is going to take place in our weekly schedule. If there is a field trip at school, if we are going on a trip, if someone is coming to visit, or if Dad is going to be away for a few days, he needs to be forewarned and have time to frame the event in his mind, ask questions about what will happen and think and talk through possible scenarios that concern him. Once he has done this preparation, we can have a happy, fairly calm special event or activity.
Because he is only four, he does not have a good grasp of time. So telling him about the event he needs to get prepared for also causes anxiety. He does not know when the event is going to happen, and will ask me every ten minutes or so, "Are we going now? Is it time yet?" days before the event. He will be on edge when we are going about our daily routines, constantly wondering if the event is going to happen while we are at the grocery store, or while he is asleep. To calm this anxiety and teach him about time, I have started to use an exciting event calendar when we are looking forward to a change in schedule.
Basically, it is a little series of drawing that looks like this:
We are going to Winnipeg on Thursday so we can attend a family wedding. This is what our week looks like prior to that event. I draw the boxes for the days of the week, arranging them like calendar to get him used to the structure of a regular monthly calendar. I tell him what we are going to do each day (if there is an event) and he tells me what to draw. The simple pictures are his pre-reading symbols for the events of the week. Each morning we cross off the previous day, so he knows what day we are on.
He can check the calendar by himself and double check with me, without asking me every five minutes when we are going to go to Winnipeg. He can review in his mind: "We are going to church today. This is not the day we are going to Winnipeg." "Today we are going to playgroup. We will go to Winnipeg tomorrow." This helps to stop him from getting overexcited, and be able to construct a picture in his head of the events of the week. This, in turn, helps all of us to have a more peaceful week, and a calmer transition to our holiday, visit, or special event.
What do you do to help prepare your children for exciting events?