In May when the end of the school year is looming and you the kids are running on fumes, it’s easy to daydream about the lazy days of summer and the void of routine, hustle and bustle.
However, after those first few glorious days of summer break, most of us notice the kids are restless and whining that they’re bored.
Both children and adults thrive under a routine. It’s important to differentiate between a routine and being over-scheduled, too. It is possible to have routine and not be rushing from one activity to the next, and it is possible to have a day jam-packed full of things but still lack routine!
Now, as we kick off the new school year, let’s take a look at the importance of routine and how to ease back into a schedule that will set your whole family up for success this school year.
Why is routine important? And is it THAT important?
The reason children thrive under a set routine is that the structure provides a sense of certainty and security. This is even more pronounced in the early childhood years.
Children’s fear of the unknown includes everything from a suspicious new vegetable to a major change in their life. For better or worse, children are confronted with change daily, which is a growth opportunity but also stressful. As a product, children handle change best when they know what is expected out of them and how it will pan out.
This probably doesn’t sound much different than how an adult would thrive under change!
With the inclusion of routine in a child’s life, you’re able to eliminate power struggles like transitioning from screen time to homework time, because routines eliminate power struggles by removing the sense that you’re “bossing” the child around. You’re just following the rules of the routine! This helps to reduce nagging on your end, because your child will know when it’s the natural transition time.
What benefits will you see from setting routines?
While the implementation of a routine can be hard, it’s important to stick with it until it’s really “stuck,” because a successful outcome will yield a calmer and more grounded child. Here are some of the other benefits that a routine provides for children:
- Increased cooperation—a routine will help decrease stress and anxiety for everyone in the family. When transition times are known, it helps eliminate power struggles and meltdowns.
- Instills good habits such as remembering to brush your teeth every morning before school. Repetition of the same task over and over helps to build your routine. Can you imagine leaving the house without brushing your teeth? This is the same habit you want to build in your child.
- Helps build skills like getting yourself dressed and tying your shoes. If your child is expected to get up and fully dresses each morning this school year, by the end of September they will be a pro. It’s easy to step in and try to speed up the process, but by sitting back and allowing them to be in charge of their routine, they will become more proficient in their daily tasks.
- Maintain consistency in expectations by limiting the negotiations on the little things. How many times have you heard your child ask for one more show or one more treat? When the expectation is set ahead of time by way of a routine, the number of daily battles you’ll have to fight will be limited.
- Building a set schedule is particularly important when you’re trying to beat the morning bell each day! Minutes in the morning are precious, so setting up a routine that can be replicated every day will help your sleepy little one move from task to task without too much deviation. In addition, having a schedule after school and into the evening will help your child transition from play time to bed time more smoothly. This will cut down on the amount of time it takes for your child to fall asleep, too, which means more shut eye for them!
- Builds personal responsibility when kids know they are in charge of getting their backpack ready for the next day or putting their clothes for a sports practice by the door. While you might have to provide oversight to ensure everything is done right, having your child take lead as part of their routine will create a sense of ownership and become a point of pride. This will serve them even more as they transition into middle and high school.
Can there be “too much” routine?
Some people believe that having a routine can be stifling or too rigid and can even lead to the suffocation of creativity. It is important to realize that having a routine doesn’t mean you can’t ever deviate, though.
For example, if you spend any time around the water cooler at a kids’ activity, the topic quickly turns to how many activities the little one is involved in. Some people think that creating a routine means having a structured event every night. And others hope that starting soccer at age three will result in a scholarship (even though researchers have found that 75% of kids who played sports at a young age quit them by age 13). Therefore, don’t equate activity to routine.
Instead, creating a solid routine can be done with something as simple as establishing a good oral health habit. Routines can be used for small pieces of each and every day to keep them manageable.
To get started small, trying setting up a station in the bathroom where your child can reach their toothbrush and toothpaste. Set a specific time in the morning and night where you help your child brush their teeth, depending on their age. This time can be used to show how much toothpaste to apply and how to properly wash your mouth out when you’re done. Keep with this habit every day until it becomes a real routine.
As your children mature and are able to brush their teeth on their own, let them start to take the lead more, too. As they age, you’ll also be able to incorporate other tasks like flossing and the use of mouthwash.
This simple oral health routine will not only create a health benefit that will last a lifetime, it will also give their morning and even structure that can be used to anchor other tasks. Use the upcoming school year as a catalyst to create a routine and witness the benefits for yourself!