The importance of routine is a routine topic in any parenting manual – as it should be! And if you have been a parent for long enough, you will surely agree on the value of a predictable pattern in the home for children’s well-being and a family’s optimal functioning. However, life is not one long, uninterrupted series of foreseen days without any variation in schedule. Luckily, there are blissful breaks such as school holidays and other delightful domestic disruptions like the birth of a new baby. Moreover, stressful events such as divorce or relocation can unfortunately also upset habitual household habits dramatically.
These interruptions will occur (most probably a couple of times a year), so be ready and rigged for the regular re-establishment of routine. Here are a couple of pointers for when you are facing those challenging back-to-the-real-world periods.
Commence with Communication
You cannot expect the children (and adults!) in a family to reset into normal patterns without talking about it. Remind them why the routine was upset (e.g. “It was so amazing to go on holiday, wasn’t it?”) and why it needs to be re-established (e.g. “If there is no order in our home, everybody is unhappy!”). Make sure all caretakers are on the same page about the rules. Also, if the routine needs to change from before (maybe due to a new school year or a different location), then the new normal should be clearly communicated. Even young children feel safe and valued if they are informed.
Be Tender but Tough!
Keep in mind that adults’ choices or uncontrollable circumstances allowed for routine to be turned on its head. Even if the children enjoyed these disruptions (like going to bed late and eating junk food during holidays), the parents were still the ones who had the final say in it. So, if your child is having a hard time readjusting to routine – remember that you cannot blame him! Be kind. However, when the new season arrives and it is time to resume routine, push through without further delay. “Gently” and slowly gliding back into normality is confusing rather than helpful and will probably only motivate children to keep on resisting the boundaries. So, draw the line and then do not give in when their post-holiday, ice cream-stuffed, overstimulated bodies crave more sugar or late-night fun.
Incentivise, Improvise and Individualise!
Make it worth their while for your children to cooperate. Do not bribe them, but have a reward system (like a ‘’Munchkins Catch Me Being Good’’ incentive chart) to motivate them. Encouragement works better than punishment!
Keep in mind that each child is different and that their processes of readjustment and the incentives they need will differ. For example, an introverted, perfectionistic child will probably be more overturned by all the change, but she will also crave routine and stability more. Such a child will need lots of alone time and reassurance to help her settle. A more sanguine, flexible child most likely enjoyed all the uproar and will find it hard to go back to mundane routine – he will need to be motivated with fun, such as daily play times or weekend outings as a reward for cooperation.
You know your children best, so make sure to cater for individual needs to help them with the resettling process.
Prevention is better than cure
The best way to re-establish routines is not to upset them too much in the first place. Try your best to maintain as much consistency with lifestyle matters such as bedtimes and nutrition in all circumstances. And always follow through on discipline – that is the one thing that should never go on holiday!
Always remember (although it might seem like a contradiction) that routine yields beautiful freedom. Predictability produces protection whereas fickleness fosters fear.
If you are having a hard time establishing an effective routine in your family, consider contacting one of our expert parenting coaches from the Munchkin team for more information on a parent coaching session.