Every family needs routines. They help to organize life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent.
One of a family’s greatest challenges is to establish comfortable, effective routines, which should achieve a happy compromise between the disorder and confusion that can occur without them, and the rigidity and boredom that can come with too much structure and regimentation, where children are given no choice and little flexibility.
As a parent, review the routines in your household to ensure that they accomplish what you want.
To make the household function well in the morning, everyone needs to know what has to be done to get ready for the day. Try the following:
- Put as many things in order as possible the night before.
- Keep wake-up routines cheerful and positive.
- Be sure your child eats breakfast, even if she is not hungry in the morning, have her get some food in her system to start the day.
- Finally, round out each morning by saying goodbye to your youngster. A simple hug and a wave as she heads out the front door or slides out of the car are extremely important. They will give her a positive feeling with which to begin the day’s activities.
During middle childhood, children need adult supervision. While some parents have their children return each afternoon to an empty home, these “latchkey” kids are more susceptible to misbehavior, risk-taking, and anxiety. For this age group, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child come home to a parent, other adult, or a responsible adolescent.
Dinner should be an important time for your family. As often as possible, all family members should eat together without the distraction of a television or radio. During dinner the family can share the day’s activities and participate in enjoyable conversation. Everyone should be encouraged to take part, and negative comments and criticism should be discouraged.
On school nights, children need a regular time to go to sleep. Lights can go out at different times for different children in the family, depending on how much sleep each youngster needs. Nighttime rituals can help ease a youngster to sleep. These rituals can include storytelling, reading aloud, conversation, and songs. Try to avoid exciting play and activities before bedtime.
Weekends are good times for family togetherness. You might go shopping as a family, visit museums and zoos, do chores that everyone participates in, go on hikes or bike rides, or attend religious services. On weekends children in the middle years can usually be allowed a later bedtime than during the week. Keep in mind that, although family time is essential, it is equally important for parents to set aside some time just for themselves.