Research has shown that children, especially young children, benefit from a sense of structure. While there are many reasons why children need a routine, parenting experts say that the most important one is that a consistent routine helps children to feel secure.
Of course, like anything else in life, it is important to remain flexible. And while having a consistent routine is important, that doesn’t mean that there is no room for flexibility. After all, what would childhood be without some spontaneity?
Parents also need to realize that routines should reflect their values and particular family situation. In other words, no two families will have the same routine. And what may be important to your family may not be as important to another family.
The most common routines revolve around things like mealtimes, bedtimes, chores around the house, family time and play. Remember, the things your routines revolve around will let your child know what is important to you as a family.
So aside from a sense of security, what are some other benefits of establishing routines for your family?
- Routines help children get on a schedule. A consistent routine of bedtimes, naptimes and mealtimes, for example, help set a child’s body clock. For example, if they go to bed at the same time each evening, when that time approaches they will begin to get sleepy.
- Routines encourage family bonding. When families participate in certain activities together – reading, hiking, visiting grandparents – they begin to understand that these are things that they should cherish.
- Routines encourage independence. Rather than you having to tell your child to brush their teeth or pick up their toys, he or she will be able to do so without being told. This promotes a sense of independence by letting children know that they can do things on their own.
- Routines help establish healthy habits. Eating their vegetables and sitting down to do their homework helps children know what they need to do and when. This helps them develop time management skills.
- Routines allow children to look forward to things. When a child knows that Friday nights are family movie nights, they look forward to the weekend and spending time together as a family.
- Routines create stability. Life can be stressful but knowing what to expect can help alleviate stress. If a parent becomes ill or the family moves, having certain routines in place will help to calm a child.
If your family doesn’t have any routines in place, don’t worry, it’s never too late to start.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Concentrate first on things, like meals and bedtimes. Gradually add other activities.
- Be consistent but patient. It will take time for your child to settle into a new routine.
Adjust as necessary. Routines are meant to be a positive experience. If a particular routine doesn’t seem to be working, try something else.