Finding your Family's natural Rhythm

Tanya Kemp

Finding Yor Family’s Natural Rhythm

I was listening to a talk by Marcy Axness (Author of the book: Parenting for Peace) and she talked about the three R’s as the antidotes to disorders of integration and regulation. The autistic brain and how it is wired differently, often speaks to differences in integration - how information (fact, sense, feeling) comes into and moves around the brain, how it is put together and gives meaning and helps us make things ‘fit’. How the autistic brain regulates the body is also a key feature in autism: regulation – the capacity to modulate mood, senses, states and achieve balance between rigidity and chaos. 

Both of these functions – integration and regulation – is ‘governed’ by the Orbital Frontal Cortex (OFC), which in essence brings all parts of the brain together in order to achieve social and emotional functioning. We may as well refer to it as the ‘human being success centre’. In short, it:

Supporting the development of the OFC is crucial

This is where the 3 R’s come in:

  1. Rhythm
  2. Relationship
  3. Regulation (co- and self-)

What I wanted to focus on today is the first R: Rhythm. Particularly because I often have the families I work with struggle to establish routines and structures that support their child, but that also accommodate the needs of the rest of the family. Some children require rigid structures but rebel against it, and it all can lead to a confusing picture – and more dysregulation!

Thinking and reading about it more, I really love the idea of Rhythm as opposed to Schedule and here is why:

Science/Research on earliest brain development shows clearly that growth and development is fostered in predictability and consistency in daily life. We know that stability and boundaries give children freedom to learn, be creative and thrive. Rhythm provides children with a feeling of safety, a feeling of containment in which their imagination and energy can flourish. In a world that is so overstimulating and over-whelming, creating rhythm may just be one of the best things we can do to create peace and harmony in our family life. 

“Meaning hides in repetition:  We do this every day or every week because it matters.  We are connected by this thing we do together.  We matter to one another.  In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat:  the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes.”

– Kim John Payne

I love the Waldorf take on ‘rhythms’ – referring to them as being like the movement of breath – rhythmically – breathing in…breathing out and using that analogy to set up your day. Breathing in activities are focused, quiet, individual and generally requires the presence of the parent. Ny presence I don’t mean ‘opresence in the sense of sitting next to your child and keeping an eye on what they are doing. I mean true, undivided attention kind of presence. Breathing out activities are more expressive, active and social activities, and generally could be done by children on their own so they can express in a way that feels nourishing for them. As parents we can facilitate by providing the tools and overall structure, but free expression here is encouraged. Figuring out what the ‘breathing in’ and ‘breathing out’ activities are for your children, and finding a daily rhythm that reflects that flow, could be really regulating for everyone involved. For our children we need to be very aware of their sensory needs and incorporate that in our thinking for activities to reflect the rhythm and flow we want to achieve. Movement, heavy work, tactile experiences after more focused work makes complete sense!

Action Points:

  1. Think about what is important to your family. What would you like to see happening every day/regularly because you love it or it is so good for your family. You might here include things like reading together, playing outside, taking a walk, special time, chores etc. What do you want to eliminate due to the disruption it causes?
  2. Think about the things you have to do every day – meals, resting time, bedtime and wake up times. These can serve as anchor points – they stay the same and you build the rest of the day around them.
  3. Add the activities that you want to add (from point nr 1), alternating focused and active times of day to create the rhythm.
  4. Test out your rhythm and see if it works. Remember – your children live what YOU live, so finding the rhythm is up to you. Set out to do this for your family and be okay with doing your best – even if it doesn’t work out perfectly, right from the get-go. 
  5. If you love this you may start to think about weekly rhythms too. Things you want to add to give anchor points to the week – things that the children look forward to, and creates dedicated space for things you and the kids enjoy doing together: crafting, hiking day, baking day, shopping day, cleaning day, painting day, or movie day!

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about your family’s rhythm and ways in which you can, with flexibility, add more consistency add shape to the days to help your children feel safe enough to thrive!

Daily Connection:

Create a daily/weekly rhythm chart as a family. Have the children write or decorate whatever they can as you discuss what each of the cards mean.


Daily Compassion:

Try forgiving yourself for a small recent misstep. 

Now wish yourself well.