September 2005: Setting Up Routines With Children

A time for new beginnings and routines:

It’s back to school! The lazy days of summer are coming to an end and thoughts of a new year and new beginnings are on the horizon. September is a time for new beginnings! Whether your children are starting a new school or a new year, it’s a good time to set goals and put routines in place. January 1st is when most people make New Year’s resolutions but September has always felt like the New Year for me. It’s the beginning of a new school year for children but for some of us adults, it’s also a new year.

Setting up routines with children is really important. In some families, summertime may be a time with no set routines. Meal times and bedtimes are flexible. That’s okay when kids don’t have to wake up early in the morning, but it’s a good idea to start some routines to help children adjust to school. Setting up regular study times, meal times, and bedtimes can help children cope as they know what to expect. Some people think routines mean you lose all your spontaneity and you are programmed morning until night. That is not what I am talking about here.

A household runs more smoothly when there are expectations, routines and rituals. One routine might be getting kids to start on homework after their after-school snack instead of having them start it after dinner when they may be too tired. Another routine may be to get kids to empty their knapsack or school bag as soon as they get home from school. I get my kids to put their lunch bags on the counter beside the sink so I will wash out containers and put freezer packs back in the freezer. It’s no fun finding these in the morning or after a weekend! Also, they can take notices or permission slips out of their knapsacks and leave them on the kitchen table for me to see.

Homework assignments are another area where kids can be organized. I ask my kids to write down their assignments in their own agenda but on my calendar as well. The reason I do this is to remind myself to follow up with them on their progress. I believe it is their responsibility to do the project but I want to teach them time management. I don’t want to know on Sunday night that they have a project due Monday and need a poster board and some books from the library! Sound familiar? When they are younger, if you instill good habits, hopefully it will help throughout life. If they have three weeks to complete the assignment, I break it down into smaller tasks. I say okay, we will go to the library Wednesday and take out some books. Then read the books by following Wednesday and then start rough copy and good copy needs to be done by this date. It helps them stay on track but it also helps me to answer when they ask to have a sleepover, for example. I can say, “How are you doing on your project? Have you completed rough copy? Yes, okay we can do a sleepover.”

Being on time is something we need to practice and teach our children. When children are late for school early in the year, it often sets the pace for the rest of the year. The bottom line, things take longer than we think, so better to be a few minutes ahead than a few minutes behind. It’s stressful for parents and stressful for children too! We may not realize that our bad habits rub off on our children as they may choose to do as we do and not as we say! My trick is setting my clocks ahead a few minutes! That helps keep us on track and on time. We often underestimate the amount of time it takes to get ready in the morning! Getting up a few minutes earlier in the morning can help you be on time and stay on track all day! The payoff is peace of mind! You don’t have to be racing around all day! You can take your time and be on time!

Being organized is a life skill. Teaching your children to be organized is an important lesson for them to learn. When they are out in the working world their clients or their boss may be less forgiving than their teachers when it comes to poor penmanship and tardiness!