Will the Sensitive Period for Order be extended if there is a big disruption in a child's life?

Two young boys at a playground at a water table, laughing and splashing!

You talked about the Sensitive Period for Order being extended if there was a big change or disruption in the child's life [before ages three and four].

The child may take a few weeks to a few months to settle back down from a big change, like a move to a new house, parents getting divorced... as for a change in the rules and or routine (which I've experienced in my classroom), a few days to a few weeks until their need for order is satisfied or they've gotten used to it so that it no longer feels like a change--we are all affected by changes, it's part of life, we are just not as sensitive to it as young preschoolers are, and who cannot verbalize their feelings or use abstract thinking, yet, to understand the changes.

What did Montessori say happened when the child lived a life of disruption and did not have his/her need for order fulfilled? Is it like Freud's stages, i.e. oral stage and becoming stuck/fixated in that stage?

That is a good question, I believe it's tied to their learning process, so they may take longer to learn a new skill--if they are in the middle of learning to write their name, and they move to a new house, it will take longer, and sometimes there is a regression (usually when a new baby is born in the family).

Personally, I think these children ("the child lived a life of disruption and did not have his/her need for order fulfilled?") will either be anal about order and structure or rebel against it (they will be of one extreme or the other, rather than balanced and centered or in the middle). A good extreme example is a foster care child who goes from one home to the next.

And what if there is a disruption but then things return to order?

They will settle back down and get back to the work of being and doing what their minds and bodies require being and doing--they will get back on track!

Another question about this is that all along I've felt that our son doesn't seem excessive in his need for things to be "just so". Believe me, he has some things (like the bedtime routine) that cannot change a lick. But is it possible that if a child's need for order is fulfilled in the basic daily routines, the Sensitive Period for Order is less intense?

I really think it is tied to language, as they can express their needs and wants, likes and dislikes, they react verbally to changes, rather than physically, and as they mature to 4 1/2 to 5, they can begin to understand, that, for example, mom did not make you peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch because she did not go to the store to buy more--the older, mature preschooler can understand that verbalize his feelings, "That makes me sad that I don't have a p&j sandwich," and depending on their personality, be forgiving or stay sad!

Or vice versa, as the child tries to hold on to and obtain a sense of security and order?

It's not so much a sense of security and order as it is sensitivity to it, if they have order and routine, they are centered and balanced and can go about the business of learning and developing. A change is a disruption to them that they do not quite understand, yet, and can't talk about--

As I've mentioned before, we have always been big on structure and routine ... our son has had a lot of it and has really benefited from it. He has seemed a lot more secure and accepting of many things that change, things that I have heard really upset other children. For example, I changed the front room around today to make room for our new cart and he didn't blink an eye.

That is good to hear! It's funny how certain changes make one child fall apart and the other shrugs their shoulders! For example, if Susie's mom forgets Susie's jacket, Susie screams and cries; if Jane's mom forgets Jane's jacket, Jane says, "OK Mommy, see you after school." You just don't know, sometimes, until IT happens! And you just have to deal with it! As teachers, we only have so much control over a child's life and have to deal with them and their reactions to changes going on in their lives, some big, some little! It is just is a part of life, and we try not to make a huge deal out of it, and we help them to learn to shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh well," or "That made me sad."

Change is a part of life and can be a good thing, just not for a three-year-old! ~Lisa Nolan

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