Creating A Routine for Your Family
In turbulent times, one of the most effective things you can do to help everyone is creating a routine for your family. Knowing what’s going to happen next in the day is very calming for your children and yourself, and provides a sense of normalcy when nothing else is normal. Adults are used to a routine at work, and kids are used to a routine at school.
When we’re all in the house all the time, and both school and work are done at home, it can tone down the chaos to have a routine for every day. It also allows for every single person in the house to know what’s supposed to be going on, which is especially helpful when parents are trying to work from home and need the help of older children to keep things running smoothly.
A Routine is Better Than a Schedule
I’ve tried schedules. You’ve tried schedules. Schedules are notorious for falling apart if one little thing goes off track. Schedules are when you have a specific thing planned for a specific time, which is great if you’re completely in control of your personal and work life, and have to answer to no one but yourself. There’s nothing better to throw a schedule off track like a sudden email with an urgent deadline from a boss, your toddler discovering how much fun a full bag of flour is, or realizing that a 15 minute project is actually going to take two full days to complete.
That’s why I love a routine. A routine is an order in which things happen, and they’re easy to switch around if you need to. Routines can easily flow around a cranky 4 year old or a sudden deadline.
For example, our morning routine goes like this:
- Adults get up and drink coffee. Kids get up and eat breakfast
- Kids get started on schoolwork for the day. Husband cleans kitchen, I exercise.
- I get started on my work day while my husband supervises school time.
- Break for lunch. We usually catch up on the news, 4 year old goes down for nap.
- Kids get free time on computers, do art projects, play games, etc. If they haven’t finished up schoolwork, that happens first.
- My work day continues while my husband works on projects around the house. I try and finish up work by about 5 or 6, but it depends on the day.
- Dinnertime. Either my husband cooks or we cook together. Then kids go to bed, and we usually watch a show together before going to sleep.
(Note: My husband is on temporary layoff due to Covid-19 and I am working full-time from home. So he is taking over making most meals and running the house. However, my office door is usually open and I pop in the living area every 30 minutes so to say hi and check in on everyone.)
Our routine revolves around meals, because it’s a constant thing that happens no matter what. This is very flexible, and allows for changes when we need them. If it’s beautiful outside the kids can go play in the side yard after lunch. Or if I need to get groceries that day (which we try to do only once a week) I can go in the morning and just work a bit later that night.
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What About Weekends?
We also follow this general routine on the weekends. While we usually get up around 7am on weekdays (when things are normal we’re all usually up by 5 am!), we sleep in lots on the weekend. But the routine still works. As I’m typing this it’s Sunday, and my work day just started at 12:30 pm. Yes, I’m working on a Sunday because I got behind during the week. It happens. But I got up, had my coffee, exercised, and then started work. I know what I need to do, the kids know what they need to do, and my husband knows what he needs to do. Everyone has the flexibility to pursue things they enjoy, while at the same time making sure that work comes first so all the important things get done.
Getting Everyone on Board
The worst thing you can down creating a routine for your family is march into the living room, lay down a new routine and say “this is what we’re all doing.” You will most likely get a chorus of eye rolls from your kids and the “Really?” side eye from everyone else. The best thing to do is sit down with your husband (or wife) and have a discussion about how we’re in a completely weird time and you’d like to provide a sense of structure for the kids. Explain the difference between a routine and a schedule, and say you’d like to work together to set up a routine that works for the whole family.
When you have a rough routine decided on, sit down with the kids. You’ll find that kids are usually a lot more receptive to the idea of a routine than you’d think. Let them know what you were thinking as far as a routine, and ask if they have any ideas or input. One kid might suggest a fitting in some outside time, or another might ask if they can have free screen time after they finish their school work. Consider suggestions, and adjust as needed. Then, try it out!
Adjusting the Routine As You Go
Routines are flexible for a reason, so they can be changed as needed. Make sure you all understand that the routine isn’t set in stone, and will be adjusted over time to fit the way the whole family functions best. For example, if you have a family member who is suddenly back to work, the routine will need to change. If the school your kids go to decides to do live classes at a certain time each day, the routine will need to change. When this happens, make sure to let everyone know and post the new routine somewhere to help family members who have difficulty adjusting.
What to Do When The Routine Falls Apart
When the routine falls apart, and everything goes sideways, the best thing to do is just start fresh in the morning. If you find the routine falling apart regularly, it might be best to re-evaluate it and make sure it fits your lifestyle. For example, if my husband was supposed to get the kids started on schoolwork before he has time to drink his coffee and wake up, it would be war in our house. Work with your natural patterns and the times you know you’re most productive to create a routine that flows well.
I’m including a whole bunch of printables at the bottom of this post that will help you keep your routine in place, as well as minimize disruptions when you’re trying to work from home. My kids often interrupt to ask if they can do something, or what different passwords are. My husband often will ask what we want to do for a specific meal, or which kid is supposed to be doing what. Plus I included a Learning Activity Choice Board. It’s one of my favorite things to pull out when I hear my least favorite phrase, “I’m bored…”
Hopefully these printables will help you avoid these issues too!
Time Management Printables for Kids
Everyone can adjust well and quickly to a routine once you find the right one. The key is consistency, especially if you have children who are gifted, ADHD, or on the autism spectrum. These children often respond especially well to a structured routine, and can thrive even in difficult times if we provide a stabilizing consistency to their days. It’s also a relief for adults to know what’s coming next and be able to focus on their work. For more tips for working from home with kids, check out Keeping Kids Busy for Work at Home Parents.
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I hope that creating a routine for your family helps you find a sense of comfort in such difficult and unusual times, as well as make it easier for you to find moments of joy and relaxation around getting work and school done. We hope you all stay safe and healthy!