We often struggle with change. As humans, we develop routines and derive a sense of security from knowing what to expect and when. Change can cause anxiety and uncertainty, resulting in stress. This is especially true for children. A new school year is a time of change for children and setting a routine can help them manage their stress and transition from the summer schedule to a new school routine.
Why are Routines so Powerful?
1. Set Expectations. Children often fear the unknown. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it provides them with consistency and reduces this fear. When a child knows what to expect, they become more confident, independent, and begin to learn responsibility. Even in the younger grades, children can be responsible for choosing their own clothes, brushing their teeth, and making sure everything they need is in their backpack.
2. Reduce Stress. Routines benefit the entire family. When everyone knows the routine, the household is generally calmer. Routines make sure daily tasks get completed in a timely manner and reduce the occurrence of forgotten tasks or last-minute crises. There are generally fewer power struggles as children accept that this is just the ways things are done.
3. Create Family Bonds. Routines can also be used to reinforce family bonds and develop family traditions and rituals. For example, older children may flinch at hugs and kisses when leaving for school but may find a special family handshake or fist bump acceptable.
4. Easier to Manage Change. Routines should be consistent but flexible. No two days will be exactly the same, but minor changes are managed more easily within the structure of a routine. When setting a morning routine, build in extra time. There are always unexpected things that arise and a time buffer will make them less stressful.
A Getting Ready for School routine should start the night before. As part of the bedtime routine, a child may choose their clothes for the next day, make sure all needed school items are in their backpacks, and check the calendar for any unusual activities that may require a special outfit or signed permission slip. Everything should be placed together in an obvious place, so nothing is forgotten as they leave in the morning.
5. Healthier. Making sure the child gets enough sleep is critical not only to the morning routine but to ensure the child has a productive school day. Bedtimes should be set to allow for adequate sleep. Alarm clocks allow the child to be in charge of waking up, but they may need a little nudging. When waking a child – be cheerful and upbeat. If the child likes to snuggle – build it into their morning routine.
Once children are up and moving around, create a routine for regular activities like getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing hair and teeth, and putting on shoes and socks. Younger children may need reminders and motivation. Again, be positive and upbeat and whenever possible, give the children age-appropriate choices. The goal is to give children a good start to their day.
Children tend to do better with structure provided by consistent, predictable routines. Routines help families organize their activities and reduce some of the uncertainty and stress inherent in any family. It’s worth the time to create and write a routine, posting it on the refrigerator so everyone has a visual reminder.
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