In most families, summertime means a relaxation of schedules and routines. But…here comes the school year! It’s time to get back into the swing of routines. More than just getting everyone out the door on time in the morning, routines help young people develop important life skills.
- Routines provide the external structure that children need while their internal structure (planning, organizing, evaluating) is still developing.
- Routines allow some things to be ‘automatic’ (eventually!). Having agreed upon bedtime and morning routines eliminates having to make decisions about these things every day. Expectations are clear, so parental nagging, reminding, coaxing, can be minimized.
- Routines help children become more independent and gives them a senst that they are capable.
- Routines can help children cope when unexpected events or life situations occur. The inner sense of safety and security provides them with the resilience to handle life stresses.
Hints for successful routines:
- Build them in one at a time. Know that you as the adult will be the person doing the follow through. Over and over again. That is part of the process, so setting aside annoyance, frustration and resentment that this is hard work is helpful.
- Invite your children to problem solve and construct some of the routines with you as is age appropriate. For a morning routine, you might start with when you or your children need to be out of the house and work backwards. First think about what has to happen and what order would be helpful. With young children this can be like solving a puzzle with you. It takes awhile, but also has them thinking in a different way.
- Build a visual “map” or routine chart. After you and your children figure out what will happen, you can do a dress rehearsal in the middle of the day. Take pictures. Have your child arrange them in order on a large sheet of paper or hang them on a ribbon.
- Let the routine chart be the boss. When your child gets distracted, instead of reminding him or her what comes next, ask, “What is next on the chart?”
- Expect mistakes. It takes a lot of practice for children to organize their lives in a linear way. You will need to be the person who follows through. Again and again. Smile as you do it. They are learning from you!
More on routines for families.