Children and Routines: Why Routines are Important
As human beings, young and senior, we can all greatly benefit from having daily routines integrated into our lives. However, for children, routines serve a vital role in their social and emotional development. Like adults, children’s comfort and confidence increases when routines are habitual. They crave predictability and familiarity in their everyday lives. In a world of dealing with daily unknowns, having a consistent routine provides children with a sense of stillness and stability amidst the chaos. And as a parent, utilizing certain methods to establish routines plays a vital role for your child to develop into a well-rounded individual.
Why do children need routines?
Children grow up to be extremely fearful, and it makes sense as to why. Their lives consist of experiencing many firsts, and that can be scary and stressful for them. Something so simple as a new vegetable on their dinner plate or meeting a new person at daycare can incite a reaction. Yet, your empathy about children’s fears may grow once you realize the sheer amount of daily unknowns they must face.
As parents, a large part of our job is to ensure our children’s safety. But this doesn’t only include physical safety such as looking both ways before crossing the street. It also means ensuring your children’s mental health so that they feel emotionally safe when new things are presented, safe when change occurs, and overall safe in their environment. How can we as parents achieve this?
Research proves that having a routine for your child, in part, allows your child to feel a greater sense of safety and adaptability when they are presented with daily changes and challenges. When the foundation of a child’s life is made up of routines, they will feel more incontrol of their environment and emotions. In turn, they can better self-regulate their feelings and behaviors when it’s time to handle change. This means children with developed routines are better able to identify their feelings, and then choose how to manage and communicate them. This is paramount in preventing regular breakdowns, tantrums, and emotional episodes. And is pivotal in developing maturity, self awareness, and communication – qualities in which many people still struggle to achieve well into adulthood.
Changes are unavoidable, but rather than reacting negatively, children with routines are more likely to handle them pragmatically.
Routine vs Schedules: How Traveling Families Can Integrate Routines
Much of the population, specifically, traveling families, hear the word “routine” and shy away from it. It’s because it’s commonly misunderstood that with a routine, your lifestyle cannot include adventure, travel, spontaneity, nor can it change. Having a structured day seems highly impossible for families who live on-the-go. But parents often confuse needing a routine with having a schedule. Schedules and routines, though inter-related, are not the same. A routine relates to having a daily pattern in which your child lives by. It can provide structure and order to their day, but it does not dictate exactly when things should be done- that is a schedule. In addition, routines are repetitive, and schedules change. Routines can be integrated into any lifestyle. Schedules may be harder for families with diversified days. Having a routine doesn’t have to look monotonous or scheduled. So whether you travel the world, attend a traditional school, or are homeschooled, routines should still be integrated into your child’s life.
What does a routine look like?
A routine is a recurring set of actions every day. It also includes familiarity with people and relationships.
There are many ways and moments throughout the day where you have the opportunity to incorporate a routine in your child’s life. It can be at nighttime, in the morning, during dinner, naptime, after school, etc. And it can include them cleaning their room, setting the table, reading a book, or going for a walk. Depending on your lifestyle, there are multiple times and ways when your child can experience familiarity in their day. This doesn’t mean there needs to be a routine for every moment and task in their day, but rather what could prepare them for the future and what works best for you.
It’s common to assume that attending school is a regular part of your child’s routine. And in many ways, it is. However, during the school day, children are still facing many stressors and changes that are not foreseeable. From new subject content to new projects and assignments, schooling presents change over predictability. So after school, children will most likely crave a structured routine. For example, a student may feel overwhelmed being assigned to a new partner during a class activity. However, when they arrive home, that student may find it comforting to perform a familiar task like setting the dining room table, something they do every night. Even after a chaotic day, ending it with their nighttime routine will help them wind down, decompress, and sleep. It is empowering to watch your child learn to manage their emotions optimally, and master handling their lives through routine.
Routines also indicate that children should be around familiar faces such as family members or friends, so they can be around people who behave in predictable ways. Just as actionable as routines are, building a routine from relationships creates peace in a time of chaos, familiarity amidst the unknown, and ultimately a deep sense of safety within an ever-changing life.
Integrating Routines is A Non-Negotiable
Whether you crave a life of thrill or stability, to travel the world or are more sedimentary , routines should always be an integral part of your child’s day. Children benefit from the relationships and environments that are viewed as predictable to them. And ultimately, they play a key role in their emotional development in how they handle their daily stressors, challenges, and the changes that life throws at them.