The Rhythm of Routines

Contributed by Jody McVittie, MD

What are the routines in your household? Do you have an evening routine? A morning routine? When adults and children know what to do and practice “getting ready” in the same way each day it can reduce stress (for everyone) in the morning and evening.
Steps for setting up a routine at home:
Decide whether you want to start with a morning or evening routine. (Start with one to begin with.)
With your children make a list of what things happen for everyone to either get to bed or get ready for school and out the door. Have them pick an order that makes sense.

With younger children (10 and younger) set aside a time during a weekend to photograph the steps of the routine. If it is a morning routine, that means getting in pajamas in bed and pretending it is morning and documenting “the morning” for each child in pictures. Then print the pictures and (with each child) make a poster that shows them doing their routine in order. Have older children make a visible list that they can post somewhere. If you put it in a sheet protector they can use a marker to check off what is done.
It takes time to “get” in the rhythm of a routine. As children are learning the routine you can ask, “What comes next?” and invite your child to look at their list or picture chart.

A couple of do’s and don’ts:
– Don’t give rewards for doing routines. Let the process be satisfaction enough.
– Don’t tell your child what comes next. Ask, “What is next in your routine?” and let the routine be the boss.
– Do think about things that can be done in the evening that make the mornings easier (laying clothes out, rinsing and filling lunch boxes, putting the backpack by the door etc.)
– Do think about making your own (adult) routine to get your own rhythm going.
– Do have fun in the process!