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Episode 29: How Showing Kids What to Expect Clears the Clutter in their Head



Have you ever noticed how your mind gets when you're anxious, running 10 million miles an hour? Kids are exactly the same way. We tend to want to organize ourselves to make things easier. But kids don't have that skill. What if I could tell you that there was one thing you could hang on the wall that would help your kids deal with this stress and help simplify everything that's going on in their mind and clear all of the clutter so that they can focus on what matters, just like you can. I am going to tell you today why a visual calendar has become the centerpiece of my whole universe and why I care so much about mighty and bright and my visual calendars that I've created.


[00:00:00] But before I do that, I want to tell you a little bit about why routines help us, to give you kind of a basis for where this idea comes from. So as you have probably noticed in your life, there are some things you do automatically without even thinking about them, and there are some things you have to give more thought to.

[00:00:23] Take an example of the mornings. You probably go through certain activities, like waking up, getting coffee, sitting and looking at your phone, then at a certain point getting up, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, blow-drying your hair, putting on clothes. And you don't never think about these things.

[00:00:45] Sometimes I could even get to work without even having thought about much of anything, because these are just things I do literally every day without giving them any thought. They're part of my routine.

[00:00:57] Now, there are other parts of our days where we need to use our brains a little bit more.

[00:01:03] So if we're at work or we're dealing with our kids having some kind of a meltdown, we need to be "on," so to speak. We need to be thinking, we need to be figuring out problems. We need to be taking action. And that takes significantly more energy than those times when we're going through a routine.

[00:01:22] And that's why routines can be so helpful for kids, because when there are things that they don't have to think about - and they just do the same thing every day at certain points in the day - it reduces their anxiety. Because they don't need to think about things and they know what to expect. And this helps you, too.

[00:01:42] So when I'm talking about a visual calendar, I'm bringing in some of those same concepts of knowing what to expect and using that to release the amount of energy that you need to spend to make your life happen.

[00:02:00] As adults, we rely on our phones to keep track of our appointments, to keep track of the things that we need to remind ourselves about. And we have a whole heck of a lot more responsibility than kids, right?

[00:02:11] But when it comes to something like divorce or, you know, a parent's cancer treatment where they might not know how you're going to be feeling or who's going to be picking them up at school, there are things that they need to think about, too.

[00:02:25] And they don't have a phone to reference.

[00:02:28] So when we hang a calendar on the wall that belongs to the kids (and it's not for us to put the cat's vet appointment on - it's just for the kids and it has *their* schedule), then they have something that they can reference and helps clear the clutter in their own head so that they know what to expect each day. And they don't need to worry about when it's going to happen or how it's going to happen or whether someone's going to forget about it. They can answer their own questions and it really relieves their anxiety a lot.

[00:03:04] I discovered this method when my daughter was just two, and we were going through a divorce and she didn't know when she was going to see her dad next. And for me, I don't think I realized that a two year old could be *that* affected by not knowing when she was going to see her dad next. I mean, let's be real. A two year old really struggles with a concept of time. She didn't know what today was and what tomorrow was. Is it *really* going to help her for me to be like, "oh, you're going to see Dad in two days?" I didn't think it would. But when I put up a calendar that had pictures of her dad on the days that she was going to see him, I was surprised by how much of an effect it had on reducing the number of times she was asking me. And how many times she would go over to the calendar herself. . . And this is a toddler I'm talking about.

[00:04:00] The calendar also really helped me to *explain* the concept of time to her, because I would be able to go to the calendar and I would say, "OK, this is today and this is a sleep and this is a sleep. So in two sleeps, you're going to see Dad."

[00:04:14] That really helped her to have a container for her experience day to day. A lot of people talk about routine charts for kids and, you know, there are tons of them online. You can print them out. Mighty + Bright has one too, but they're really common. And the calendar isn't. I'm not really sure why more people haven't grasped on to the fact that this is so helpful, because this is something therapists really recommend for kids that are going through difficult things.

[00:04:46] And it's great if your kids are going through a strange school schedule now - like some days, they might be distance learning or some days they might be in person or some days they have Zooms. My daughter has an IEP for her hearing loss. So some days she sees an audiologist to learn more about how to handle that. There are all kinds of moving pieces in kids' lives in addition to, you know, just the regular day-to-day stuff - which days are school days, which days do I go to daycare? Which days do I go to the martial arts class, which days or dance days..?

[00:05:24] All of these things are bouncing around in our kids' heads, and they need to make sense of them. So I highly recommend that you create a calendar to help your kids really understand what to expect out of each day.

[00:05:43] I love the Mighty + Bright calendar because it's really fun. It's colorful. Kids love to move the buttons around. They love all the pictures. And there's a button for every activity you could possibly think of. And if I don't have one, please let me know - I'd be happy to create it. Or you can make your own.

[00:06:02] I just recommend really having one or two weeks at a time because it can get really overwhelming to kids to keep track of, you know, five weeks at a time. So I would focus on probably two or three weeks at a time at the most.

[00:06:17] I hope this has helped. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. I'm @mightyandbrightco on Instagram or you can email me at