A true understatement of parenting is saying there is an importance of a children's routine. Routine establishes so many aspects of healthy living, good habits and good behavior that even the slightest structure is necessary in day-to-day life.
Really, kids need and even desire routine – even if they don’t know it – and there are plenty of ways to get them going by building a schedule that works for the whole family.
There are many positive side effects for establishing strong routines for kids.
Kids don’t have a lot of control in their lives and it can give them a sense of organization, stability and comfort. That, in turn, should help develop better behavior and some sense of personal control – always a challenge, especially with young kids.
Doing things like bathing and brushing teeth as part of morning or nighttime routines can help establish good personal hygiene and health habits. Having built in chore time somewhere in the week or day, having them help pick up at the end of dinner or tidy up the house at the end of a day of playing establishes responsibility and work ethic.
The list can go on regarding how one aspect of routine can affect another and lead to more positives.Morning
Getting up and going can be hard whether young or old, kid or parent, in school or not. Maybe morning is harder on the stay-at-home dad than child or vise versa. No matter how getting started in the morning goes for a family, getting a solid routine established right off the bat means an easier flow to the day.
Sticking to a similar wake-up call could mean all the difference between having a good day and having a bad one. Think about it, even if it’s obvious, if the kids are used to waking up at 7:30 and for some reason rise an hour earlier or later you now need to figure out how to add an hour to the day or squeeze in a day’s worth of routine in 60 less minutes. The tone of the day can be messed up.
The implications are worse if the kids are in school or there is something taking place that morning. Having a solid morning ritual will maintain a good stress level for everyone.
So whatever the process is, getting up, getting dressed, hygiene maintenance then off to the breakfast table, there is only one chance to get off to a good start.Mealtime
When it’s time to eat is a perfect time to establish good habits. Eating habits, specifically. Always eat breakfast, and a good one. Lunch and dinner are more of a given, but set times and structure for kids so there are no surprises and length between eating isn’t so great that hunger takes over the family. That can lead to crabbiness or impulse snacking and dinner wrecking.
Set standards for when snacking takes place and what kinds of foods are eaten. Don’t indulge in food whenever a child wants something. The results should equal good eating and eating habits.
Mealtime is also a good time to instill family into the kids. Always try to find time to sit down together, preferably at a table, to talk and eat. Additionally, have kids help get dinner started, set the table and clean up afterward to plant a bit of responsibility.Sleep
Getting kids to sleep, whether it is for a nap or for the night, is one of the greatest challenges for parents. Those kiddos always think they are missing something if they have to shut their eyes, plus there is so much more fun to be had running around rather than lying down.
Obviously, children who aren’t well rested can throw a wrench in any lifestyle. Sticking to a solid sleep schedule may be one of the most important aspects of routine.
Sticking to the same times and the same aspects will make this so ingrained that less fighting and whining will take place and hopefully better sleep will result.
For bedtime, brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, taking a bath, reading a story and finally lights out can be comforting and rewarding for the kids. They know what the next step is and what the expected end result will be. Stray from whatever ritual you use and getting those lights off and eyes closed becomes more of a challenge.
For younger kids needing naps, timing may be everything. Try for a nap too early and they may fight the entire time and never get to sleep. Go too long and they may be over tired, leading to more restlessness. Little things before a nap may help in the same ways as going down for the night – stories, tucking in, changing diapers, etc.
Some flexibility may be OK around sleep times if special activities or events are going on, but a good sleep routine can keep a family sane.Play
One area for stay-at-home dads and their kids that can, and maybe should, be flexible is fun activities. Changing things up can keep life fresh and interesting.
As long as everyone knows there is activity built in to the day, there will be something looked forward to. No matter how the basic daily structure is set up, there always will be
time for activity. A little planning can go a long way, trying last-second ideas to fill the schedule also can lead to stress.
For older kids with sport practices or extra curricular activities there isn’t much of a choice in having the time set aside. And that requires a whole new level of planning to make sure all the needs of the kids and the rest of the family remain being met.
Morning or afternoon, ahead of naps or after meals, there needs to be time for fun. Everyone needs the release, and it could make things feel a little less structured, too.