With the school holiday already becoming a distant memory, and the school term getting into full swing, it’s an ideal time to establish some routines and expectations in the household for the whole family. Here’s some great ideas for resetting sustainable routines after the holiday break.Routines can include a more streamlined before school preparation, or assigning small responsibilities to all the family to take the weight off Mum or Dad during the week.
Bedtime routines are always good to review as children get older, as too ways in which homework is supervised and completed.
With life becoming more hectic for the modern family, it’s so important to ensure there’s conscious thought involved in keeping connected with each other. This helps the family work as a team, and avoids overload on one or more members. Children should learn how they can contribute to their family community, and be involved in the decisions around that.
Resetting routines after the holiday break
A good starting point is to address the way in which mornings can be managed before school during the week. Having a sustainable morning routine in place, creates consistency (which most children respond better to), and helps prevent morning mayhem, starting the day on the right note:
- Have a time where everyone needs to be up and getting ready to go. Have older children set their own alarm clocks and take responsibility for getting up on time in the morning.
- Stipulate morning jobs and responsibilities for every member of the family. For instance: all 3 of my children are expected to make their own beds and have their bags by the door ready to go. My expectation as to how well these jobs are done varies on each child’s age. For example, my 4 year old’s bed is ‘made’ when he has pulled his duvet over the bed. My 7 year old is expected to have her lunchbox and book bag in her bag, as well as any other items like togs or library books on the right day. My 15 year old is expected to have made his own lunch, have his bag all packed, bed made and dishes put away before catching the bus to high-school.
This is a very sustainable routine in our household – it hasn’t changed in 10 years! Initially it began as a way to earn a small amount of pocket money, then it simply became the expected requirement before school. Ultimately it helps the adults in the house attend to other jobs, instead of racing around making beds and packing bags before rushing out the door to work.
Another way in which routines and expectations can encourage team work in the home is assigning small additional responsibilities to the children:
- Feeding animals if you have pets is a good example of this.
- Another useful idea is having turns to cook dinner.
Again, this needs to be matched to the age and developmental ability of your own children.
Our 4 year old can feed both the cat and the dog, but does need a high level of reminding. All 3 of our kids have a night where they’re responsible for cooking dinner. My 15 year old can make a basic meal for the whole family, and the only discussion around this is in planning the nutritious component of the meal (to include vegetables which would otherwise be forgotten!). My 4 year old obviously needs a high level of supervision and is ‘cooking’ when he’s peeling carrots or potatoes, or taking the plates to the table.
All these responsibilities are stepping stones to growing sustainable, useful, life-long skills. They also develop an understanding that as a family we help each other and we work as a team, to make the household work.
Finally, bedtime routines are vital to ensure a sustainable level of energy for the new school term! This includes Mum and Dad too! Ongoing research is now confirming the amount of sleep a child has is as equally important as the type of diet and exercise they receive.
Younger children need more sleep than older children, although teenagers return to needing a considerable number of hours as their bursts of growth needs are met. A guide to sleep needs for children of all ages suggests that children:
- between the ages of 3 to 5 years need around 11-12 hours sleep each night
- between the ages of 6 to 9 years, need around 10-11 hours sleep each night
- between the ages of 10 to 14 years, need around 9-10 hours sleep each night
- between the ages of 15 to 18 years, need around 8-9 hours sleep each night (often with a catch up sleep at the weekends).
Given that most kids are usually making their way to school by 8am in the morning, after a breakfast and preparing the schoolbag, they’ll need to be up around 7am. So for kids aged between 3 and 9 years, the need for 10-12 hours of sleep would put their bedtime at approximately 6-7pm the night before.
By having this quality of sleep every night, children will be better prepared to face a busy school day filled with important learning and social interaction – the work of childhood. The weekend should not signal a change to this level of sleep required, accept perhaps for teenagers. Too often children arrive at school on a Monday morning almost in a ‘hung-over’ like state, as the lack of sleep hours received catches up with them.
It’s not so simple as packing the children off to bed as the lights go out at 7pm either. For children to have quality sleep a consistent bedtime routine is vital.
This is a time of calming and quietening down, with the inevitable just round the corner. It’s also potentially the most precious time of the day between parent and child. It can be that time when your child receives your undivided attention instead of commonly sharing it with their siblings.
If, as parents, you want to support the healthy growth and development of your child’s brain, turn electronics off during this routine. Engage with your kids over a story, following a bath or shower and dinner. Allow your child’s brain to calm, rather than being overstimulated with the flashing screen of a TV or mobile device.
Climb onto the bed alongside your child and model the joy of reading books with them. The key to the success of such a routine is its consistency. Do this Every. Single. Night. Your kid’s brains will be all the better for it.
For another great read on setting up school term routines, check out Rituals and routines for back to school.