Restarting a Daily Routine for Kids

Restarting a Daily Routine for Kids

Restarting a Daily Routine for Kids 2560 1707 Dr. Terry

Raise your hand if the daily routine for the kids in your home fell apart at any time during the last 18 months. 

 

Me! My hand is raised! 

 

In my house, we started and stopped many routines throughout the pandemic. Splitting child care responsibilities. Balancing online meeting times. Attempting to feel like we were in control when so many things were out of our control. Quarantine. School schedule change after school schedule change after school schedule change. The disruptions to our routines were endless and unpredictable. 

 

While we know the pandemic is not yet over, some things have returned to a more predictable schedule. That makes it a great time to revisit your routines and get a jumpstart on increasing the routines for yourself and your family members. January 1 is often a time when people look to start new habits. Getting a start on new routines now  will help you get through the stressful holiday season and will leave more mental energy for the other routines you hope to start in the new year.  

 

Why did maintaining routines become so hard?

 

Survival Mode! In March 2020, our brains abruptly became focused on getting through one day at a time. We were in survival mode. We couldn’t be sure what new mandate or closure or cancellation would disrupt our delicately balanced schedules. When our brains switch into survival mode, we have to devote a lot of mental and physical energy to making sure our basic needs are met. Suddenly tasks that used to be mindless became a production. Remember trying to secure sufficient quantities of toilet paper? Probably not a pursuit you’d given much thought to prior to March 2020. When survival mode takes over, we have much less energy to devote to our executive functioning skills.

 

Why do executive functioning skills matter?

 

Executive functioning skills (EFs) are essential for helping us plan ahead, estimate the length of time a task will take, keep ourselves and our family members organized, and so much more. Even if EFs aren’t your strong suit, by establishing routines, you start to build these skills for yourself and model them for your kids. Definitely a win-win situation!

 

Why do routines help?

Did you know that it has been estimated that the average American adult makes 35,000 decisions per day? Imagine if we could cut down on that number by creating a daily routine and increasing our efficiency. In addition to reducing the mental energy we spend on decisions, routines also cut down on the amount of talking and arguing we do with our kids. 

 

Routines allow for

  • Less talking/arguing: Rather than repeating the steps needed to finish a job, you can point your child to the list to do the reminding for you.
  • Preventing errors: Wouldn’t it be nice to walk out the door in the morning without that nagging feeling of forgetting something important? A list of things to take with you helps reduce the chance of forgetting.
  • Reduced anxiety: Instead of spending time worrying about what you’re forgetting, a list can do the work of holding all the responsibility for you. For example, by using the same master packing list every time I travel, I know that I won’t forget anything and I can quickly check off the items that I won’t be needing for that trip.
  • Increased self-regulation and readiness. Maybe most importantly, routines help kids build their executive functioning skills, which in turn increases their self-regulation and readiness skills. As they learn to repeat tasks or make lists, they are able to be more independent and 

 

How do I start/restart a daily routine?

 

  1. First, make sure that you are letting your kids in on your own routines. Talk them through how you follow a recipe. Jot down the steps you take to let them in on your routines. 
  2. Don’t try to start with the whole day. Start small! Trying to tackle your whole day at once is a recipe for disaster.
  3. In order to start small, identify one sticking point or part of your day that consistently causes distress for you, the kids, or both.
  4. Name what matters. Decide what the most important goal is for this routine. Is it for the kids to be able to do the whole process independently? Or are speed and efficiency the goals? When you know what’s most important, you’ll do a better job of setting the steps of the routine. (And for more on starting small and naming what matters, check out Kendra Adachi, The Lazy Genius for tons of helpful tips)
  5. Finally, document the routine! If you want your family members to follow along, you have to get the routine out of your brain and into a list or visual.
    • Make a list of the steps. Don’t make it pretty to start with. You may want to revise the list, so just get it written down. And as you choose the steps, make sure they line up with the goal you identified above.
  • Once you feel good about the flow of the steps, create a visual. It could be as simple as a checklist on a post-it note. Or it could be a fancy routine chart downloaded from Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • Create a schedule. If you don’t decide where the routine is going to fit in your day, it probably won’t happen. So make sure it gets added to your regular scheduling system (google calendar, Alexa reminder, post-it, etc.).
  • When kids are involved, add a verbal cue. If there’s a song you can sing or play, or a silly little phrase that reminds everyone of the task at hand, make sure it gets paired with the start of the routine every time. There’s a reason the clean up song got so popular! Now we just have to come up with verbal signals for other routines too! By pairing the task with a verbal cue, your kids’’ brains are primed to do the same steps every time they hear that cue.

 

If routines still feel overwhelming, or if you or your child are looking for support to boost your executive functioning skills, we’d love to help! Dr. Menon and Dr. Terry enjoy helping parents and kids discover their inner ability to create and follow routines. And we love seeing the peace and harmony that can come along with them. If you’re wondering how to get started, reach out to schedule a free phone consultation and we’ll discuss your options!