How To Simplify Your Life . . . With Consistent Routines
Help make your family life easier by implementing rock-solid routines.
Are nights and bedtime crazy at your house? Are mornings chaotic? What if there is one tweak that could make your family’s routine rock solid and get everyone out the door on time? Here is an idea to help you do just that.
Most mothers can tell you firsthand one of the biggest reasons they haven’t lost their mind is because of their one secret weapon: routines. And if that’s what it takes, your family may need one, too!
Adults may find routines to be too much work to implement, or too rigid, but when you’re juggling raising kids, working, running a household, and making certain you have date nights–establishing daily routines for your family is crucial.
Routines help provide structure and order in your home, and help kids function better because they know what’s coming next. Like any new schedule, consistency is the key to success. So, if you’re feeling like you family routines are as rusty as an old doorknob–or maybe even nonexistent–here are a few tips to help you polish them up and add some shine.
The Importance of Routines
Imagine you work at a job where the company lets the employees come and go as they please. Where the norms are: you don’t have to meet deadlines, and when you “don’t feel like it” you don’t have to. While that might actually sound appealing–having a non-schedule like that would very quickly result in chaos, and be disastrous for the future of the company. The same is true for families–especially children.
Routines are your family’s consistent, everyday procedures. Those sequence of actions that get done by the same people, in the same way, at the same time. Parenting and family researchers, as well as some local parents we spoke to, suggest that consistent routines provide a sense of security for children and help them function at a higher level. The predictability of consistent routines help children feel more comfortable and secure. As a result, their confidence and independence builds from a very young age.
Effective routines take forethought and planning, but don’t need to be complex and overwhelming. So how do you get on your way to implementing a rock-solid, daily routine? Consider one typical day and divide it into these manageable chunks:
Routine #1: Mornings
Create routines with timelines that allow enough time for a child to complete each of the tasks. Alisha Butterfield, Rapid City working mom of sons Michael (13) and Alec (10), knows how much time it takes each of her children to get ready in the morning. “Rather than making them speed up, I have learned it is best to wake them up and give them adequate time for their pace.”
Will electronics be a part of your morning routine? Some choose to use the ‘work before play’ rule, meaning everyone is completely dressed, fed, and ready to go (backpacks and lunches included) before games. Mornings typically have enough going on without the distractions of T.V. and games, so Rapid City stay–at home mom, Chelsea Anderson, implements the ‘no T.V. before school’ rule for her children, Emily (11) and Jackson (7). But they don’t mind, “It’s just the way we do it at our house, and it works.” says Emily.
Have easy, healthy breakfast options available for school days. Forget the omelets and hash browns. Instead, have selections like oatmeal, English muffins with peanut butter, smoothies with protein powder, a few hardboiled eggs, or an egg casserole that has been cooked in advance.
After breakfast, have children finish their personal grooming, teeth brushing, and gathering their backpacks and school items.
Finally, whether from your front door or the school door, send them off with smiles, kisses and encouraging words for a positive start to their day.
Routine #2: After School and Homework
Depending on your children’s ages, you will need to allow for time to unwind when they get home from school. Question is, will it be before or after homework? And does homework get done before or after dinner?
Whether you have a sitter until you get home, or you are at home when they arrive, the routine should stay the same.
Older kids may have afterschool activities. When they come home, have them put their things away, eat dinner, and complete their chores. Then it’s off to finish homework, shower, and get outfits ready for the following day. If there is free time afterwards, let them have an activity of their choice.
Routine #3: Dinner
Even if the evening meal isn’t served at the same time each night due to work and other commitments, you can still have routines. Children can set the table while you cook; and if they are older, they can help make salads or side dishes. “I have found that if my boys help me in the kitchen with the cooking they are more likely to eat and enjoy what we made,” says Alisha. For the table routine, give thanks, eat, chat about the day, and then everyone helps do dishes and put things away.
Sometimes it’s only 20 minutes at the table together, even so, kids really do benefit from that family time. “Sitting down for a family meal was a tradition I grew up with,” shares Averie Georgas, mom of two boys, Apollo (4) and Nikos (2). “My husband Yanni and I feel it’s important to continue this routine with our family.”
Routine #4: Evenings and Bedtime
Whether they are off to school or going to daycare in the morning, children benefit from going to bed at a consistent time every night. Decide on a bedtime for school-nights, plan backwards to allow time for them to complete the bedtime procedure, and stick to it!
A lot of the evening routine has to do with preparing for mornings. Chelsea advises to get as much done the night before as you can. “Having kids choose their clothes and pack lunches at night saves so much time, and helps make mornings so much less chaotic.”
Averie, also a Pinedale Elementary teacher agrees with the helpfulness of getting things done at night, “Being a teacher of 9 and 10-year-olds, I encourage them to prepare what they need before going to bed, rather than waiting for morning to do it. I believe this makes busy mornings less stressful, in fact, it’s a practice
I use for myself.”
After a little preparation, it’s brushing teeth, potty, PJs, and prayers.
Routine #5: Your Own
Don’t forget about yourself when it comes to establishing routines. Parents need to build in time for their needs, too. Alisha advises, “As a mom, almost everything I do revolves in some aspect around my family, but I always feel so much better after taking a little time for just me.
I love to read, so I take at least
30 minutes every night after the kids go to bed to read.”
If you don’t schedule personal time each day, guess what—you won’t have any!
Remember: routines don’t happen overnight. They need to be thought out and established, then regularly followed. Make a list of how you’d like to see your family’s days flow and then build your routines around that.
As you find what works best for you always stay flexible, because as you know, no two days are ever really exactly the same with kids. There are surprise elements that pop up, breakdowns, sickness and an entire list of other things that can happen to change your day. Keeping all of this in mind, your routines will soon become your secret weapon, too!
Cut 20 minutes from your morning schedule
Do one or more of the following activities the night before to cut at least 20 minutes from your morning routine.
Make an egg casserole and refrigerate it. Warm for a quick breakfast. By making the main part of breakfast at night, you’ll cut significant time from your morning routine.
From sandwiches to chopped vegetables, many items can be prepared and refrigerated the night before. It only takes seconds to put already prepared lunch items in the box.
There’s likely some fuss about what clothes to wear, unless your children wear a school uniform. Instead, choose an outfit with your child at night. Likewise, choose your own clothing at night so you’re not scrambling for something to wear in the morning.
Watch the Weather Forecast
Check the weather before going to bed for a glimpse of the next day’s forecast to help you plan the family’s attire and activities for the next day.
Put Fuel in the Car
Make it a practice to glance at the fuel gauge on your way home at night to avoid the low-fuel light coming on while on the way to school.
There’s one more important thing you can do to help your personal morning routine: resist the temptation to hit the snooze button.