It’s that time of year again. School is back in session, and teachers and students alike are re-adjusting to their normal schedules. Even for students who attend camp or other summer programs, acclimating to a new school year can be a challenge. Moving from the relatively free and easy routine of vacation back to reality doesn’t have to be traumatic, though. It may be difficult to adapt to a new schedule at first, but things can be made significantly easier by having an established routine at home as well as in school.
Not only is having a consistent routine helpful when adjusting at the beginning of a new semester, it’s an important part of developing a healthy balance for the whole year. Establishing and maintaining good routines is the first step in developing healthy, productive habits.
Why Routine Matters
Research has repeatedly found that family routines are associated with overall health, academic achievement, and a healthy sense of identity.
For starters, consistency for everyday things such as meals and bedtime accustoms students to positive things such as a healthy sleep schedule, regular nutrition, healthy play/outdoor time, and calm behavior during slower times of the day. Developing good habits like these is an important part of developing executive functioning and self-regulation skills.
In order for students to be successful as they grow older, it’s essential that they learn how to function for themselves. By having consistent, familiar routines introduced, children learn how a productive day is structured. Kids who are used to this are more likely to feel confident to care for themselves as time goes on rather than having to be constantly told when to, brush their teeth, go to bed, etc. This gives them a feeling of empowerment, which actually makes them less likely to rebel. From elementary school to college (and beyond), kids can take pride in knowing what they need to do and being able to do it by themselves.
This regularity can also help children cope with the inevitable changes and stresses that are part of life. Big changes, such as changing school systems, a new sibling, and even divorce, can upset a child’s sense of security. When they have an established routine to stick to, they are able to hold on to familiar normalcy no matter what is going on.
It’s never too early to start establishing routines. Studies have shown that, even during infancy, the benefits of predictability are significant. From the time kids enter school, they are already exposed to routines, which are the backbone of the modern education system. By including things like mealtimes, homework, bathing, and family time into a normal routine helps them become part of the daily structure.
There are many different opinions about how daily routines should be structured; the specifics of that debate go beyond the scope of our discussion for today. That being said, let’s talk about a few simple things that can help you get started at home.
One of the most basic parts of every student’s day is mealtimes. Planning at least one meal for everyone in the house to have as a family is a great place to start. This meal doesn’t necessarily have to be dinner. Having a regular 15-minute breakfast together each day can have significant results. This also gives parents a chance to introduce children to simple responsibilities with tasks such as carrying the silverware to the table or putting their plates in the sink afterward.
Another way of turning something that already happens into part of the routine is by having bedtime rituals. These rituals help children learn how to slow down when appropriate and allow them to associate certain activities with sleep. Taking a bath, reading a story, or listening to soft music are all potential activities that can be part of this, depending on what works for each family. These rituals can be reinforced from a very young age by asking questions like “What do we do after we put on our pajamas?”
Ultimately, having a predictable structure is extremely helpful to students of all ages. With that said, it’s always worth remembering that so is flexibility. As important as routine may be, it is even more important to avoid adhering to a schedule too rigidly or allowing changes to throw your kids (or you) off balance when they inevitably happen.
If overall, most parts of a kid’s day are predictable, they will still be able to deal with small discrepancies, especially if they have a good example set for them by the adults in their lives.