The end of summer means an end to late nights outside, lazy days at the beach, and family holidays with memories to cherish.
It also means a return to school for the kids, and likely back to work for mom and dad. Getting into a routine can make this transition easier for your children and yourself.
Here’s a look at why and how to create a great back-to-school routine for your family.
Why Is a Routine Important?
We all love those days with no alarm clocks and nothing to do. But when it comes to school and work, and our well-being, a routine makes our days easier and healthier.
By routines, we mean “observable, predictable, and repetitive behaviors that occur daily or weekly.”1 For our purposes we are also referring to routines created in the context of parent/child interactions in the home environment.
Researchers have found that everyday routines provide these benefits (among others):
- Routines are associated with positive child outcomes, including enhanced language development, academic achievement, and social-emotional and behavioral functioning.1
- Routines can benefit family functioning, and may even support higher levels of marital satisfaction2 and lower levels of maternal distress.3
- Routines can provide a buffer against the effects of family stress4 and individual child risk factors on child wellbeing.1
- Regular rituals contribute to stability and predictability in family life that enhance children’s functioning.4
For older children and adults, routines can also help:
- Alleviate anxiety5
- Promote healthy habits5
- Combat burnout5
- Achieve better sleep6
- Set a good example6
The structure of a daily routine, even something as simple as getting up at the same time every day, is valuable for just that reason: routines provide structure. They can also give us a sense of accomplishment, because we have planned our day and times, and prioritized what’s important to us, like spending time with our families or looking after ourselves.7
Routines may also ensure you have time for exercise and to prepare healthy foods so you eat better. Finally, routines teach time management, as your routine ensures you make effective use of time.6
Setting up a routine may mean adding some new component, like reading to your child every evening. It can also mean eliminating a bad habit, like spending too much time on social media before bed.5
How Can You Create a Routine?
So you know a daily ritual can help. But what are some examples, and how do you create a routine?
Here are some key routines to consider for your family.
Morning routine: This one can start the night before, by handling tasks like preparing lunches and setting out your clothes. If mornings are stressful, focus on eating, brushing teeth and getting dressed. For example, although it’s nice to have beds made in the morning, that’s a task that can wait until after school if mornings are too rushed.8
After-school routine: Make it easy on everyone by having a schedule to complete homework as soon as school is over. Provide healthy snacks, and work in schedules for activities around homework and dinner time routines.9
Dinnertime routine: Time together at dinner has been shown to moderate the effects of parenting stress on child outcomes.4 Take steps to make the supper hour a time to gather as a family and talk about your day. Meal planning for the entire week may help reduce stress when it comes to dinnertime.
Bedtime routine: This is a key routine that provides benefits for young children and well beyond childhood. Researchers have found that a nightly bedtime routine for young children promotes more than a good night’s sleep. It also provides positive long-term developmental outcomes.1
Here are just a few of the advantages cited:1
- sleep duration
- sleep quality
- overall child development and wellbeing, including health
- emotional–behavioral development
- parent–child interactions
- family functioning
- and more.
A regular time for “lights out,” with enough time allocated in advance to prepare for bed, is how to schedule a bedtime ritual. Here are just a few important components to include in a bedtime routine that will reap benefits:1
- Hygiene such as washing up and brushing teeth
- Communication through singing lullabies or reading
- Physical contact like cuddling
Ask Your Doctor
If you’re struggling with creating a routine or having a stress-free ritual each day for you and your family, ask for help. Friends, extended family, or your doctor may be able to provide advice, guidance and resources.
Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you who can help you with any concerns.