Benefits of a routine for your family and tips to stick to it
Think back to March 2020 when our world was upended by
COVID-19 and lockdowns. Kids stopped going to school every day, activities
outside the home were suspended, and many parents were furloughed or worked
from home. The daily routines we had established — even if they weren't overly structured — became
obsolete, and the benefits of a routine for the new normal were obvious as mental
health issues, including stress, anxiety, and depression, increased in parents
When families have predictable, familiar routines, even if
those routines are as simple as going to school at the same time every day or
eating dinner together, everyone benefits.
Kids benefit from a routine that includes a familiar
environment, consistent caregivers, and planned events. For example, kids might
expect to wake up at a set time, get dressed, eat breakfast, and go to school
or daycare, and those interactions make their morning routines more comfortable
and less chaotic. At night, kids with a routine can count on eating dinner,
playing a game or watching a television show, and then brushing their teeth
to bed at the same time each night.
Even when they're as young as toddler age, kids understand
and follow these routines, and these structured activities give children a sense of stability and security. Kids feel
empowered to participate in the activities and, over time, they'll take on
parts of the tasks without being reminded. For example, kids could eventually
start getting dressed or washing their hands before dinner — without being
reminded — just because they understand these good habits are expected.
As kids get older, routines take on new importance. Your teen will have additional responsibilities, such as after-school activities, homework, and possibly a job, and having a routine at home helps them stay organized and connected. Because they can count on consistency and predictability within their routines, they're better set up for future success.
study of teens ages 16 to 21 found those who had more family routines
during adolescence, including family dinners, household chores, and a
consistent bedtime, reported better emotional self-regulation, lower rates of
alcohol use during young adulthood, and higher rates of college enrollment.
Family routines can help manage day-to-day life more
efficiently, creating more free time, decreasing stress levels, and improving
organization. Setting aside time for family routines can also keep parents connected
to their loved ones, no matter how busy everyone's schedules get.
Try anchoring your family schedule around some of these daily
routines and healthy habits.
In the morning:
Get organized the night before to reduce morning chaos and stress. Make sure
homework is finished and packed in backpacks and lay out the next day's
clothing. Children should eat an easy-to-fix healthy breakfast, and parents
should hug their kids goodbye before they leave the house or get out of the car
— even days when you're short on time.
When kids come home from school — whether or not a parent is home — their
routine can include getting a snack, working on homework, or doing chores.
In the evening:
Evening routines often center around a family dinner. The American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends eating together at a table without being distracted by television
or phones. Talk together as a family and discuss the good and bad parts of
At bedtime: It's
critical for kids to have a consistent bedtime
on school nights. Ease younger kids into sleep with a routine that includes
showering or bathing, brushing teeth, reading together, and telling stories.
It's tempting to try to change many routines at once.
However, you're more likely to reap the psychological benefits, reduce stress,
and be successful if you focus on one or two routines at a time.
Be as specific as possible when creating a routine. Think
through what it'll look like in your daily life. Well-thought-out routines are:
Whether daily, weekly, or monthly, routines happen regularly over a long
Planned. The roles, responsibilities, and steps in the routine are clear and consistent.
Predictable. Everyone involved knows what to expect. The routine happens in the same order every time.
Be kind to yourself and your family members when following
routines. Even when a routine is well-established, no one is perfect. Still, it
should work smoothly most of the time.
Track progress with a habit-tracking app, paper calendar, or
sticker chart. If you or your child are struggling to follow a routine, try
using a checklist or visual schedule to stay on track or ask a family member or
friend for support. Remember to celebrate progress, offer praise, and recognize
what's working well along the way.
Although routines often last months or years, they aren't set in stone. You might need to adjust routines as your children grow or if you have a significant life change. Review your routines from time to time. If something isn't working, establish a new routine.
Talk with a Reid
Health pediatrician for more tips on establishing healthy routines
for your children and family.