Parenting is hard. There is no doubt about it. When you dreamt about your life as a parent, you may have envisioned yourself snuggling with a sweet infant that coos and gurgles as you rock her to sleep. You may have seen yourself reading Goodnight Moon, while your toddler sits cuddled next to you sucking his thumb. Hardly anyone envisions parenting a second grader, who doesn’t like cuddling anymore and is always fighting with his brother, and who you have to physically drag out of bed in the morning before school.
No magic formula makes parenting easy. Having a sense of humor helps, as does the support of family. One thing that can improve your life as a parent is to stick to a routine.
The benefit of routine
Children thrive under routines. This may be difficult for you to hear. Perhaps you are the type of person who hates structure and conformity. Perhaps you are uncomfortable visiting your child’s grade school to see students standing in lines and sitting in straight rows. Maybe you have decided you want to raise your children differently than most by parenting “in the moment.”
But routine does not mean boring. Routine does not mean that you can’t be a fun, active, creative, and energetic parent. Having a routine doesn't mean that your kids will have every minute of their day scheduled with activities and tasks.
How does a routine help you become a better parent? Children with routine tend to have more focus than those without one. A routine allows your child to feel more safe and secure. A routine will foster a sense of independence that will enable your child to think for himself, and it can also reduce the amount of stress and anxiety in children. A routine helps you parent better because it forces you to think of daily processes, and how they can be performed the most efficiently in your home.
Don’t stress! This doesn’t mean that you have to create a spreadsheet of your child’s day and follow your child around with a clipboard. This doesn’t mean that you need to overhaul your house or your life. It does mean that perhaps you should put some thought into how to make your household run smoothly. Begin by thinking about some of the most stressful times in your day – getting out of the house in the morning and bedtime.
Your child’s morning routine
Your primary goal of parenting is to help your children become healthy, independent, and contributing members of society. Teaching them a good morning routine is a part of this process. Having a routine could also reduce the amount of stress your family experiences in the morning. Remember to encourage your child to be as independent in the morning as possible, but give them the tools to complete these tasks. Consider using our Daily Task Checklist to help your child keep track of their morning responsibilities.
Teach your kids how to take care of their own daily hygiene. Show your child where to store his or her own supplies. While we are on the subject of the “potty,” make sure your child knows to go to the bathroom before leaving for school. You wouldn’t think a child would need to be reminded to do this, but ask any grade school teacher, and they will confirm that kids come to school needing to use the restroom all the time. Weird, I know.
Show your children how to make their own beds. Teach them where to place their pajamas. Have your child dress in clothes he or she picked out the night before.
Once your child has eaten breakfast, have your children check their backpacks to make sure they have everything they need for school. Model the behavior for younger kids so they can do it on their own as they age. You may even need to have a checklist laminated at the back door for kids to run through before heading out for their day. Use icons with words for non-readers.
Your child’s bedtime routine
For parents, another stressful time of the day is bedtime. Having a routine will help this process run smoothly and ensure that your child gets all the sleep he or she needs.
It cannot be stressed enough how important sleep is for school-aged children. Do all you can to help your child learn healthy sleep habits. Part of a healthy sleep habit is coming up with a bedtime routine. Keep this routine short -- a long, complicated process will seem stressful on nights when activities run late.
Hopefully, by the late afternoon, your child will have already made sure that his school supplies were packed up for the next morning. Ensure a stress-free morning by having your children pick out their clothes for the next day on the night before. After the next day’s clothes are stashed nearby, have your child complete their hygiene routine (taking a bath, brushing his teeth, and flossing.)
Before shutting off the lights for the night, make a goal to read to your child at least four or five times a week before bed. This isn’t the time to have your child practice reading skills. Continue this part of your routine even after your child is a proficient reader. Read to your child at night for as long as they will allow you. Graduate from picture books to easy chapter books. Your child may have excellent comprehension skills, but may not have the fluency to get through larger books on his own. Read those books to your child. Sharing the love of reading is a gift you can give your child that will last the rest of their lives.
Parenting is hard, there’s no doubt about it. The good news is that there are tools out there to help you get through the stressful times of the day, and our team at Cadily will continue to develop tools to help you be the best parent you can be.