You may know that routines are helpful in general, but why are they so important for children? Routines help children develop stability, order, and predictability. When kids see things happen in a certain order, they are reassured that the world is a safe place. With this they feel confident to grow and take on new responsibilities. When the time comes they are able to rise to the occasion and handle big changes. Walking to school by themselves, or their first sleepover becomes an exciting challenge and not one filled with fear. Kids who live in chaos have a hard time learning that life runs more smoothly if things are organized. If they don’t develop basic self-care routines, children may find it hard to take care of themselves as adults.
How routines help:
Create Good Habits: The secret to building good habits is repetition. By doing something over and over, it becomes a habit and you do not need to think about it to act.
Learn to Prioritize: Because the most important tasks have been predetermined, by following a routine, we know we will complete the important stuff first and not waste time on the frivolous. Be sure to have your kids be a part of this process so they can learn from it.
Cooperation: Children begin to expect and complete activities without problems. Power struggles are diminished. You become a partner with your child in a routine, and with this comes a kid who feels included in plans and not one always being told what to do.
Develop Independence: Your child will begin to take pride in knowing what to do and doing it by herself. Along with this comes knowing how to control herself and her environment.
Relieve Anxiety: Change and stress cannot always be avoided and impact a child’s sense of security. New schools, a new sibling, etc. are part of life. When the family has established a routine, your child has some normalcy, no matter what is going on. Routines are predictable. Predictably relieves anxiety.
Positive Anticipation: They get to anticipate looking forward to things they enjoy. It helps a child who wants to go to the beach now, know that we go to the beach after lunch, and can look forward to doing it then.
Bonding: Routines help parents build in those special “connecting” moments. These dedicated times help increase bonding with your child every day. A back rub to help your child settle down at night becomes a memory that lasts a life time.
Setting up a routine:
If you haven’t started a routine already, don’t worry. You can start at any point, the earlier the better.
Step 1: Start with the most important time of day. Where do you struggle most? Bedtime, morning, or maybe mealtime. Establish this routine first, and when you are comfortable move on to another.
Step 2: Patience. Setting a schedule may be hard for your child at first. Try not to get frustrated or impatient. It will take some time, but she will get used to it.
Step 3: Be consistent and flexible at the same time. In order for a routine to be successful, it needs to become a regular part of your day. However, we need also to be flexible. It is important that your child learn that some days we have to forgo the routine for special things, holidays, special events, etc. You don’t want your child to be dependent on a specific time and order.
Step 4: Be sure to build in some “fun”. That back rub right before lights out will help her wind down.
Step 5: Make changes and adjustments when necessary. Determine what is working and what is not. Routines are meant to be helpful.
Morning Routine tips:
Morning tends to be a hectic time of day. Because of this I think a good start is one of the best ways to help ensure a productive day.
Be the first one awake. Waking up fifteen minutes before the rest of the family can make a big difference. Having the chance to get showered, or have a cup of coffee before being pulled in a million directions really helps for the start of the day.
Write down your plan. Have the family participate together coming up with the important things. Having something to follow at first is very important for establishing routine. Make a check list. EVERYTHING that is a priority gets put on the list.
Prepare the evening before. If you are a night owl, get as much as you can done the night before. Making lunches, attending to school paperwork, choosing the day’s outfit, etc., can make a world of difference if they do not have to be done in the morning.
Say no to screen time. This really helps for mornings when the family needs to get up and out the door in a timely manner. In our house “TV” time only happened once we were fed, dressed and ready to go. This accomplishment was rewarded with having some time to watch TV, which alleviated struggles with turning off “the screen” to get dressed or eat.
There will always be things in our lives that are beyond our control, and we need to accept that. However, there is so much that we can control, especially if we follow a routine. When we design and stick to a routine, we eliminate a lot of stress because we do not have to think and worry about what needs to get done. There’s no reason routines have to be burdensome. Think of them as offering that little bit of structure that helps make life a little easier and more comfortable. Before you know it your kids will welcome the security and begin to learn how to plan their own lives. Best of all, you are letting your children know that meaningful parts of our lives are whats important.