It’s back to school time! With that change brings an entire routine to get used to for both kids and parents. This can be a great time of year to re-establish a family routine to help organize life and keep the chaos to a minimum. This also provides your children with a structure to learn important skills like how to set priorities, meet deadlines, become more independent, and develop habits of self-care.
A few reasons daily routine is important for your child:
- Routines help establish your child’s body clock for regulating many day-to-day activities including sleep, eating complete meals, regular bowel movements, calm behavior, and easier “wind-down” times at night.
- It helps to bond the family together. A predictable routine helps children know what to expect so that they feel safe. They notice the time spent together is important and helps to strengthen shared values, beliefs, and interests.
- It gives your kids a chance to be excited for future events; for example, dinnertime with the family, Friday movie night, and special one-on-one time with Mom or Dad.
- Routine establishes positive and healthy habits that children can do on their own.
- It offers stability during times of change and brings a sense of normalcy to a chaotic world.
Here are some tips to help form your daily routines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
To make the household function well in the morning, everyone needs to know what has to be done to get ready for the day. Try the following:
- Put as many things in order as possible the night before.
- Keep wake-up routines cheerful and positive.
- Be sure your child eats breakfast, even if he or she is not hungry in the morning.
- Finally, round out each morning by saying goodbye to your young child. A simple hug and a wave as he or she heads out the front door or slides out of the car are extremely important. They will give your child a positive feeling with which to begin the day’s activities.
During middle childhood (ages 6-12), children need adult supervision. While some parents have their children return each afternoon to an empty home, these “latchkey” kids are more susceptible to misbehavior, risk-taking, and anxiety. For this age group, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child come home to a parent, another adult, or a responsible adolescent.
Dinner should be an important time for your family. As often as possible, all family members should eat together at the dinner table, without the distraction of television or radio. During dinner, the family can share the day’s activities and participate in enjoyable conversation. Everyone should be encouraged to take part, and negative comments and criticism should be discouraged.
On school nights, children need a regular time to go to sleep. Establish nighttime rituals that include storytelling, reading aloud, conversation, and songs. Try to avoid exciting play and activities before bedtime.