Why do children need routine?
A routine can create a calmer household, children will know what is likely to happen next and this eliminates the element of surprise, which in turn reduces anxiety.
Routines help to develop independence; if a child knows that they need to tidy up before dinner or brush their teeth after they’ve got ready for bed then they may be able to get on and do these things by themselves. This will also give them a feeling of pride which means that they will be more willing to do these tasks without seeing them as a chore.
Children with a good routine will sleep better because their body clocks are used to doing things at certain times. Regulating snack times and eating meals at similar times of the day will help them to eat full meals as well as creating a healthy digestive system.
When unexpected things happen, whether it be a family emergency, a new sibling or parental separation, it is important to still stick to as many elements of your routine as possible as this consistency will help children to feel safe and less anxious. With the current pandemic situation, some children may struggle being out of the school day routine so setting a routine for them will help to instill a sense of normality.
How do you set a routine?
Start by taking note of anything that you would usually do at roughly the same time of day, this could be lunch, dinner or bedtime. Set a time for this that you can keep to each day (it doesn’t have to be exact) and start by just making sure that you do this one thing at roughly the same time each day for a few days. After a few days you could add in one or two more things to your routine (e.g. brushing teeth before bedtime or setting the table before dinner), these can be tweaked over time as you work out what works best for your family. Make sure you talk to your children about your routine so they can get used to it. Your weekend/school holiday routine is likely to be different from your weekday routine, but it is still important to keep a routine for those times too.
Keep it flexible!
Yes, routine is important but if it is too strict then it will feel controlled and children will struggle when things change. For example, if it looks like a nice afternoon then we will have a late dinner and head down to the beach for an hour instead.
As a family of 6 with 4 children under 10, routine is important in our house! Here is an example of our current weekday lockdown routine:
7:15 – 8:45 Get up and have breakfast. Get dressed, brush teeth and play for a short while. Drop the younger two to nursery.
9:15 – School work for the older two.
Roughly 12pm – 1pm – Lunch
by 1pm -Out for fresh air and we stay out until we do the nursery pick up.
3pm – Pick up the younger ones from nursery and head home to play or out to the park/beach if the weather is good.
Somewhere between 4pm – 5pm – Dinner
6pm – Younger two get ready for bed, brush teeth and a story before lights out
8pm – Older two in bed
Based on this routine, my 4 year old will go and get herself dressed after breakfast without being asked and in the evenings will go and choose a book to read at bedtime after she’s got her pajamas on.