Do you begin your morning generally the same way each day, or wind down before bed in a specific order? By having the same morning or evening routine, you are more likely to remember what you need to do, save time and minimize stress. August marks the beginning of a new school year for many families. It also means a change in routines and schedules for everyone. Developing a routine is one way parents can help their child transition to a new schedule.
Routines are beneficial for children of all ages, including infants. Routines that occur about the same way every day build a sense of trust and security in children because they are predictable. Children who become familiar with routines have a greater understanding of what is expected and are more likely to follow through. Routines can also promote health and safety behaviors, such as washing hands before eating, or holding your hand when exiting the car. In addition, consistent routines help children grow in their independence. As children become more self-sufficient and are able to do more for themselves, parents have more time for other tasks.
Children are more likely to follow a routine if you involve them in the planning process, and if it is written and posted at their eye level. Here are some ways to create a written routine:
- Offer choices. Children are more likely to follow a routine if they have some control in making decisions. For example, “Would you like to read a story before or after your bath?”
- Time management. Routines can go awry due to not enough time to complete all the steps. Discuss how much time is needed to complete each step of the routine with your child.
- Problem solving. When you notice a problem with the routine, involve your child in brainstorming ways to resolve the issue.
- Warnings. Before the beginning of the routine, provide your child with a 5 to 10 minute warning that a change is about to occur. Younger children may need more warnings to help them prepare for the transition.
- Visuals. Having pictures of the sequence of activities for a morning or bedtime routine is another way to help your child understand the expectations. This can be done by cutting out pictures from a magazine or printing pictures from your computer.
- Consistency. Refer back to the chart often to help maintain consistency. Ask your child to identify the next step in the routine versus having to repeatedly remind him or her.
- Praise. Provide your child with praise for completing each step. This will acknowledge your child’s efforts, increase his/her success with the routine, and build their self-esteem.
- Review. Chances are that a new routine may not be perfect or smooth when first implemented. Take some time to review your routine and change what is not working.
Change is not easy, so be patient with your child and yourself. By creating and maintaining a routine, you are more likely to save time, minimize power struggles and experience positive interactions with your child.
For more information on developing routines and tips on preparing for a new school year, visit
Preparing Your Child for the New School Year