Routine Is King
Regular patterns and routines tend to reduce anxiety in much the same way as consistency and follow-through. Children or adults with anxiety feel calmer in daily life when it is predictable, they know what is expected of them, and they are on a schedule. As you've seen, it is best to set specific times for meals, playtime, homework, quiet time, and bedtime, but you will want to avoid rigidity so that your child can practice flexibility from time to time.
Help your child establish a bedtime routine. This means you do the same things, in the same order, and at the same time every night. For example, at 7:30 p.m. your child takes a warm bath, then brushes his teeth and combs his hair. By 8:00 p.m., he is in his bed and it is story time until 8:15 p.m. He then gets to choose to read for an additional fifteen minutes by himself, or chat with you about his day. Lights are out at 8:30 p.m. If you have a child who finds it difficult to fall asleep, quiet music or a story or relaxation tape works great. It is important to keep in mind that new routines can take several weeks to establish, so hang in there. More information about sleep routines and rituals are available in Chapter 18.