So: the holidays are nearly over and your normal routine is out the window. How do you get the kids back into their routine? Is it even important?
Routine is important to kids and is defined as an established sequence of events occurring at the same time and in the same order every time. It makes their life predictable, helping them to feel safe and reducing anxiety. Routine will also aid in the development of self-confidence, independence and in the transition between activities.
But what do I do?
Re-establishing a routine does not have to be an all-or-nothing exercise. In fact a slow but progressive approach is more likely to be successful and will ultimately be easier on everyone in the house. It’s a good idea to start working towards re-establishing routine 1-2 weeks before school recommences. Here are some points to start with:
- Bedtime/wake up time. It’s important to ensure kids get enough sleep. The Australian Centre for Education in Sleep recommends 10-12 hours per night for primary school and 8-10 hours for high school students. Adequate sleep contributes significantly to overall health, emotions, concentration, problem solving, creativity and motor coordination. Establish what time your children need to get up, allowing plenty of time to get ready, then work backwards to reach your bed time. If your child needs to leave the house at 8:30am, allowing say, 45 minutes to get ready (just an example) means they have to be up at 7:45am. Aiming for 10 hours sleep means bedtime is 9:45pm. For 1-2 weeks before school recommences, start winding back bedtime in increments of 10-20 minutes per night until you reach your desired bed time. Similarly, you can progressively get your child up earlier each morning in small increments until you reach your desired wake up time.
- Bedtime hygiene. This refers to creating the optimum environment for sleep. After children get home you avoid all drinks that contain caffeine or high levels of sugar, for example, energy drinks. Electronic games, TV, video games etc. should be turned off 1 hour before bed and quiet activities such as reading introduced.
- Routine Charts. A routine chart such as the one shown here will help you to identify for your child all the jobs they need to achieve and when. Complete the chart with all the jobs they need to complete for each day of the week and display it in a prominent position such as on the fridge. Discuss the various jobs with your child, explaining what it is that needs to be done, and perhaps undertake the task with them a few times to ensure they understand what needs to be done and when. Now you can just refer your child to the chart and they can self-monitor what they need to do. A quick internet search will find many examples of charts that you can use.
- Back to school checklist. Whilst not necessarily part of establishing a routine, using a checklist for yourself to ensure that all those back to school tasks are completed takes some of the pressure off you to remember everything, allowing you to better focus on establishing a routine. Identify all the tasks that need to be done – uniforms, books, haircuts, shoes, etc – and write these down, along with a timeline of when you want it done by. You could also develop a second checklist to ensure school bags contain all the necessary items, preventing a mad panic the night before school try to remember and gather what is necessary.
- A Launch Pad. More parents are finding that a school launch pad, a nominated space for all things school, helps them to organise and better manage the school routine. The Launch Pad is the place where all school items are kept and/or returned to – school bags, lunch boxes, shoes, sporting goods, etc. Using a Launch Pad also helps your child to develop their own self-management skills and facilitates their success in adhering to their “Chart Tasks” by reducing the number of places they need to look for something they need for school.
What do you think? Following these simple steps will help you to quickly and effectively re-establish your school year routine. If you have any other tips or feedback, please send them in. Of course, if you would like some extra help or advice on this, or any other matters, give us a call. Our team of highly skilled and well-experienced psychologists in child and teenage counselling are here to help.