“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
When you have kids, the end of the August marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year – it is inevitable. Admittedly, growing up I was one of those kids who loved going to school, even as a teenager. The first day of school was particularly exhilarating with both a new outfit and new school supplies to mark the start of a new year. Now having just returned from vacation, and as I look upon the first day of grade 7 and 10 for my kids on Tuesday, I am starting to fill with anticipation for their big day. Summer does allow for some lazy days, outdoor fun, vacations, and a break from your usual routine, however, either adopting a new routine or returning to an old routine for your child’s school year is a key ingredient to their success.
Why is developing a routine important?
I know it sounds boring to live your life by a routine, but undoubtedly, it will enhance development in both your child and yourself. Routines become habits and habits help shape who you become. Discipline/improved health outcomes come from basic routines such as adequate sleep, nutritious eating and exercise, whereas improved emotional-social outcomes come from routines such as family bonding during mealtimes, activities and conversation.
A study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics looked at children who have higher social-emotional health as an indicator for academic achievement and well-being through adulthood. High social-emotional health was exhibited by understanding emotions, empathy, self-regulation and relationships with others. They showed that children who participate in five family routines had high social-emotional health. Examples of routines were eating together, singing, telling stories and playing together. They also found that predictable family routines enhance a child’s sense of security and belonging.
How do you stick to a routine when life is busy?
We are all busy in our own way in the society we live in today. Self-reflection often reveals that we create our own busyness. Setting our priorities day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year enables us to identify our goals and create habits around them. An invaluable tool is the family calendar. My husband is a digital organizer so our family’s schedule appears in electronic format on our computer’s calendar. Some families prefer a written calendar where everyone can easily access and see it. When everyone is being pulled in different directions, it may seem impossible to plan family meals, but I assure you this one routine is well worth it. Some of the best conversations and bonding happen during mealtimes. One neat resource, The Family Dinner Project, even has tips for dealing with the “I’m fine” response from teenagers.
Tips to creating a family routine:
- Commit to a family calendar
- Reduce chaos by planning outfits, meals, and extracurricular essentials the night before
- Keep both regular bedtimes and wake up times, even on the weekend
- Aim for at least 5 family meals a week, pencil them in if necessary
- Reflect on habits to see if they are working for your family’s goals
- Get everyone involved in activity planning, food preparation, homework, and bedtime rituals
- Start young and carry through (my 15 year old sticks to daily routines and so do I!)
- Eventually routines become habits, creating discipline, self-awareness, happiness and success!