How to build a sustainable, stress-reducing family routine
Routines can help us identify and tackle the little (or big) things that are causing friction or anxiety each morning before we head off to work or school, or in the evening when preparing for the next day. For example, getting ready the night before can take some of the stress out of your morning, allowing for a simpler routine focused on getting out the door and making it on time.
A regular routine can be reassuring, as family members know what to expect. It can also help build responsibility as each person looks after their own set of tasks. We’ve put together the following tips to help you build your own sustainable, stress-reducing routine.
Figure out what where your main problems lie
What causes you the most day-to-day stress? Is it getting up in time? Making sure everyone has lunch with them and breakfast eaten before setting off? Do you make repeated trips home for forgotten school books or laptops? Once you can identify what is causing the most stress, it will be much easier to come up with a simple plan you can use to address this.
Tailor your routine to fit your needs
What works for a morning person might not work for a night owl and vice versa. Focus on what works best for you, not what works for other families. If getting lunches pre-made the night before or having one final round of homework checks together before bed causes anxiety, change things up. Don’t be afraid to keep trying new things until you find what works for you.
Share the responsibility
While checking to make sure the kids have absolutely everything they need for the next day is tempting, it’s worth considering: is this adding to your own stress levels? Is it really teaching them useful or sustainable habits? You won’t always be there to make sure they’ve remembered their pencil case or have remembered to get their P.E kit washed.
By getting children to take charge of parts of their routine it helps them learn more about responsibility and accountability. The earlier they can start developing these good habits, the easier it will be when the expectations begin to amp up as they progress through school. Creating a positive, responsibility-sharing routine now can be a great foundation for better time management later on.
Create solutions as a family
It’s easy to assume doing things this way or that will help kids to worry less or feel less pressured. The only way to really know what is too much and how they are feeling is to talk to them. Creating an open, honest dialogue about the little things can help children feel comfortable opening up about other worries or concerns they may face. It can also help you find a balance that works for everyone, while unearthing any potential concerns or problems you may not have considered.
Talk about how you’re feeling
If a regular occurrence like running late in the mornings is causing you undue stress, it’s good to talk about this. Try explaining to your kids how being late makes you feel, and help them to understand how their actions or behaviours can impact others around them, positively or negatively. This can encourage them to be more considerate and mindful of those around them, as well as to take the responsibilities seriously.
Ensure everyone is getting enough sleep
Good sleep routines are key. Making sure kids are getting enough sleep can improve their attention span at school, make morning routines quicker and easier, while ensuring everyone is feeling rested and ready for the day ahead. Poor quality sleep can increase anxiety levels, while good sleep routines can help reduce stress. If you aren’t quite sure how much sleep everyone should be getting, The National Sleep Foundation has a great chart explaining the recommended hours each age group should get.
Reducing your caffeine intake near bedtime or introducing an hour of screen-free family time can be a good addition to your evening routine to promote relaxation. For children, introducing an hour or more of calming activities they can do together or by themselves, like reading or mindful colouring can be a good way to set the tone and wind-down before bed.