Last entry, I talked a bit about the value of family routines as a powerful way to automatise some of the daily grind; to reduce friction and frustration, increase predictability and security, and free up energy for quality family time. In this entry, I wanted to move into how to create them.
Every family has a different daily rhythm, and it’s important to know what yours is – and what you’d like it to include – if you want to set about changing or improving it. An important point here: don’t change everything all at once. It’s great to have lots of goals and hopes for our kids, but it can be overwhelming to add in too much at once (for parents, too).
Figure out a structure that is simple, achievable, and includes one or two new items. Be realistic and fair to yourselves in your ability to support those new steps consistently, given your own tight schedule and headspace. Remember: you can always build the routine up over time; build the foundation first. A simple, consistent routine that covers the basics and stays the same every day is far better than a complex, ambitious routine that is only successful one day a week.
So, write out the day as it is – what’s typical right now – and be sure to be honest! Then, figure out the things that are most important for your kids to do each day; the ‘non-negotiables.’ If your family routine isn’t looking too flash, you can pick a single routine (e.g. morning, after school, bedtime) and just focus on that.
Now you can write up the steps, and pin the steps on the fridge (this can be a laminated sheet of pictures of each step, with a tick box next to each, for younger kids). If your kids can be part of the process and have some input (e.g. in the order, or what fun activity they get to do once they complete all the steps that day), they’ll be more invested in it. Now, when your kids don’t know what they need to do next in the morning, you can direct them to look at the fridge, rather than relying on you to go through it all! Praise independence, and make it a bit of fun.
Be sure to practice all the steps with your kids and any skills they might not be totally sure of; then make sure to stick with it for a few weeks – if your seven-year-old is on their iPad before everything’s ticked off, point to the list and tell them what needs to be done first!
Often, we think of things like ‘family rules’ and ‘routines’ as dry, boring, serious things, but you really can turn them into something light. Involve your kids in the conversation; praise those moments of independence (and actually say “you’re so independent!” rather than “good boy/girl!” – tell them exactly what you liked), and you may see a feeling of pride and confidence start to grow.
If you need a little more guidance, I recommend reading Daily routines for your family: a guide | Raising Children Network. I hope this introduction helps!