Kids crave routines because they are consistent. When families are consistent, children feel safe, secure, and loved. We’ve all heard that kids need routines from a variety of sources like the pediatrician, teachers, other parents, child care providers, and even your mother-in-law. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, healthy routines make for healthy families by providing a safe, secure, loving, and stable environment for children. The key to a healthy routine is to establish a happy family compromise between the disorder and chaos which occurs without one and is not so consistent as to be inflexible and unyielding.
Kids thrive with family routines because they know their needs are being met and when they will be met. On a very basic level, this is reassuring and affirming. Routines also give families valuable opportunities for children to experience success in what they are doing. This success promotes confidence, self-control, and empathy. Here are some ideas for setting healthy family routines that work.
Morning – Morning can be one of the most chaotic times for any family. The key to establishing an effective morning routine is to know what needs to be done to get ready for the day ahead. Here are several things to do which will make the morning routine run well:
- Set out as many things as possible the night before.
- Be positive, cheerful, and encouraging with your family wake-up routine.
- Make sure you all have breakfast.
- Round off the morning routine by giving your child a simple hug or wave. This gives them a positive feeling which can last all day.
After School – All kids need healthy adult supervision from elementary school to middle school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children come home to a parent, adult, or a responsible adolescent. Kids who lack adult supervision after school are more susceptible to risk-taking, anxiety, and misbehavior.
Dinnertime – Having dinner together as a family fosters resilience, builds self-esteem, and enhances family communication. As often as possible, all family members should eat together at a communal table without any distractions. Discussing the day’s events and having a face to face conversation, without any negative comments or criticism, is a great way for families to bond and can even enhance digestion.
Bedtime – Children need a regular time to go to sleep at all times; particularly on school nights. Lights can go out at different times for different kids – depending on how much sleep they need. Nighttime rituals like reading aloud, conversation, songs, and storytelling all help calm children and give them a sense of security.
Weekends – For family togetherness time, weekends cannot be beat. You can get together and visit museums or zoos, go shopping, take a hike or bike ride, do chores that everyone participates in, or even attend religious services. Older children can be allowed a later bedtime than on school nights. Just bear in mind that, in addition to family time, parents need to set aside some time just for themselves.
While adults have the luxury of controlling many aspects of our lives (child care, appointments, time with friends, work schedules, etc.) to enhance them, children do not. How would you feel if you had no idea what to expect in your day or who was driving you to your destination or when you are going to go to the bathroom or what you will eat? Children have little control over their environments. Consequently, children can find ways to control their surroundings in negative and positive ways. Negative behavior like tantrums, defiance, and other inappropriate actions are ways for children to try and control the uncontrollable. Dr. Renee says that having healthy routines and schedules is a way to help kids make sense of their surroundings and know what to expect. When kids know what to expect, they tend to make more positive behavior choices than negative. Healthy family routines and schedules reduce anxiety and apprehension, which allows kids time to learn from their surroundings rather than be stressed out about them.
Healthy family routines provide boundaries for kids to know what is expected of them. Having family meals at a regular time, regular sleep times, and even regular chores and household responsibilities assures kids that they can trust and count on their parents (or other adults) to take care of them and meet their needs. With this comfort and consistency, kids develop resilience, self-confidence, and often exceed expectations. Chaos doesn’t need to rule the roost and routines don’t have to be boring to make daily life more structured and enjoyable. Setting stable family routines benefits everyone by providing contentment and consistency.