I often receive calls in my practice relating to building workable routines into the lives of my clients. Many parents have strong feelings towards the idea of establishing a routine, believing that it will either be too rigid and unattainable or that it is the magic solution to every problem!
Sometimes the same parent can feel both things! On the one hand they understand that their household is in need of a routine, whilst on the other hand they are concerned about whether they will have the energy to follow through with a set routine each day.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to routines and the first is that it needs to be fixed to a time. At it’s most simple, a routine is doing a set thing on a set day/ time or part of the day. Parents are often concerned about morning and evening routines when the juggle of life is at it’s most intense and therefore can be tricky to implement.
There are 3 principles to take into account before setting routines for either end of the day. Once you have these down pat, the specifics of the time you are planning it for should follow!
Have realistic expectations of yourself and of your children
A routine needs to take into consideration your children’s strengths and weaknesses. Children have their own personalities and will want their hobbies and moods to be taken into account just as adults will. eg: If your child is not a morning’s person there is no point in expecting them to complete lots of chores prior to school.
Get inspired – What would your ideal routine for the day look like?
Most parents wanting to implement a routine have a vague idea of how they would like their house to run and what they would like done that isn’t being done. Remember the routine should make things easier and not more complicated. Start by working out what you would need in place to achieve these goals and you have your start point for your routine.
Make your child feel an ownership of the routine
This can mean different things at different ages but it is worth considering tick lists for kids as well as positive reinforcement for having achieved what you want them to. The aim is that the ownership they feel will in turn lead to increased security and confidence in themselves and in their role in the family.
Morning Routine Tips
The biggest challenge here is getting the maximum done in a relatively small amount of time. Therefore, a successful morning is almost always dependent on how much planning was done by each person in advance wherever possible. I always advise parents to do everything possible the night before and to ensure their children have to. A few things to think about are
- Are the lunches made?
- Is everyone’s homework done and their bags by the door
- Have you remembered the permission slip for tomorrow’s excursion?
- Is the kit for soccer/music/library ready to go?
Most parents are acutely aware of the time pressure in the morning and become very frustrated that their children seem oblivious to it. This however is a reality in most homes and something you will need to base your routine around.
Try to set realistic expectations and be flexible with the different personalities under your roof. The morning is not the time to be a perfectionist in cleanliness, presentation or detail of school preparation. Rather it is a time to favour functional over creative and to pick your battles.
Evening Routine Tips
The biggest obstacle to enforcing a routine at the end of the day is that everyone involved has had a full day and may not be the most willing to cooperate.
The other common misconception is the a “bedtime” routine only starts an hour before bed… in fact it starts as soon as you walk through the door. To balance these things, try instituting these things in your after school routine.
- Make sure each child has time to unwind as part of the routine each day ( ideally before you are asking anything from them)
- Dinner needs to be a scheduled part of the evening which not only serves to feed the family, but also is a time to connect and talk with each other.
- Include one on one time for each child with a parent each day. This can include story time before bed.
The goal of a successful evening routine is that by bedtime, your child feels secure, tired and ready for rest. That means they need to have had the opportunity to relax, process their day and reconnect with what is most important to them- their parents and family.
Whatever you reason for setting up a routine, the idea of getting it started is often worse than living with it once established. The correct routine for your family will emphasise everyone’s strengths, create opportunities for family bonding and ensure that mum and dad are feeling in control!
Ariella Lew is a highly qualified paediatric nurse and Director of Kids on Track Consultancy, a private practice based in Melbourne. Ariella consults both locally and overseas, providing expert advice and management strategies for families requiring support with their childs behavior, sleep and toilet training and family dynamics as well as providing strategies and advice for families of children with special needs.
Find out more at Facebook: @kidsontrackconsultancy or contact Ariella directly on info@kidsontrackconsultancy.