How to Create and Maintain Routines
Most children thrive with routine. Little people crave a sense of control, especially with regard to sleeping and eating Routines are especially important for children who have difficulty with transitions.
Whether you’re Type A or a free spirit, take time to plan some routines for your family.
Planning routines for your family doesn’t mean scheduling every hour of the day in 10-minute blocks. It means establishing more order around things you already do, like feeding your kids or putting them to bed. Here are some suggestions:
- Be realistic. If you get home from work at 6:00 p.m., don’t schedule a 7:00 p.m. bedtime. Think carefully about your and your family's schedule to guide your timing.
- Be patient. Routines require practice and time for your child to get used to them. Adjust expectations and be patient.
- Try to have meals together as a family as often as possible. When doable, aim to have everyone eat at the same time. Make mealtime run more smoothly by having your kid set the table or do another pre-meal task.
- Ease into nap time and bedtime. There's no on-off switch on your child. Gradually wind down by doing a diaper change, bathroom trip, bath or stories to help them slow down.
- Keep the same general structure. Use the same sequence of events at nighttime – for example, bath-pajamas-stories-sleep – to avoid delay tactics and other games. Try to keep the weekend routine similar to the weekday as far as snacks and naps.
Sticking to your routine may take a bit of discipline on your part. Use these tips to help you stay the course:
- Remind yourself that your child probably looks forward to certain routines and relies on them for a feeling of security.
- Know that well-established routines can help your child adjust during challenging times, like a deployment, PCS or new sibling.
- Keep your routines simple. The more complex, the harder to maintain.
- Let your partner or someone else run the bedtime routine once in a while so your child gets used to others handling the duty. This will come in handy if you're deployed or if you use a babysitter.
- Be flexible. Your routine may need to be adjusted occasionally because of things outside of your control, like holidays, vacations, and daylight saving time.
- Don’t be afraid to change your routines. As your child grows, you’ll be able to ditch the nap, but you’ll need to create a new routine for homework. Make small adjustments that best fit your family’s changing schedule.
Check out Military OneSource for parenting-related information, tips and guidance to help your children and family build resilience. Call 800-342-9647.