Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kids Need Routine

Actually, a more fitting title for this post might be "Kids Usually Benefit from a Daily Routine as Long as the Routine is not too Rigid or too Loose," but that seemed a little long for a title.

By routine, I don't mean a rigid, unvarying sequence of events or procedures.  I do mean a schedule of events or tasks that should be done daily in a certain order with some flexibility thrown in.

Kids benefit from knowing that they can count on certain things happening at certain times throughout the day.  Meals, naps, and bedtimes are all important parts of a kid's schedule that should happen at approximately the same time and in the same way pretty much every day.  Irregular schedules lead to things like over-snacking, lack of sleep, and anxiety.  If a kid's body can count on getting fed and resting regularly, the kid will be healthier, happier, and better able to function in the world.

Some kids rely on routine more than others due to personality differences.  Some parents find routines easier to implement than others due to the same.  Even if you are a parent who doesn't naturally do routine, try setting up a loose sequence of events for the day and sticking with it as often as possible.  It will help you make sure your kids are getting what they need when they need it.

I tend to be more of a rigid person when it comes to routine.  I want things to happen in a certain way and in a specific order every day.  I've had to learn to loosen my grip on the routine and be ready to postpone or skip nap time occasionally for play dates, let my kids rest more when they need to, and let them stay up later occasionally to attend special events.  On most days, I find it does my kids and me good to stick with that routine, though.  I don't have set times when things HAVE to happen, but I do have windows of time each day when I serve up breakfast, lunch, and dinner, tuck the kids into bed, and, since I'm a homeschooling mom, do school with my kids.

Bedtime is a key time for family routine.  A routine of bath time, pj time, teeth brushing, story time, song time, etc. can really get kids ready to settle in for the night.  If your young kids have trouble getting to bed on time, I suggest you map out a bedtime routine, including a set time when the routine starts, and stick with it for a week or two.

As your kids get older, family routines help protect family time.  A certain time when the family eats dinner together most evenings can help teens feel more secure.  So don't dismiss routine just because your kids are able to get themselves ready for bed at night.  Some level of family routine helps kids learn to set and stick to their own schedules later on in college and the workplace.

Questions for thought/discussion:
What are your thoughts on routine?  Do you tend to be more rigid or lax when it comes to routine?  How do your kids respond to routine or lack of routine?

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