Routines – this word may make you feel confident or queasy. Simply put, Wolin & Bennett back in 1984 defined family routines as “patterned interactions that are repeated over time”. Those things we do regularly because we have to do them and often don’t give too much thought to. Notice this definition is NOT saying routines is about having strict schedule of your day in thirty minutes increments. (Though if having a schedule is helping you – more power to you!) Routines are simply about the parts of your day you can do with some continuity to create some consistency for your kids. This could include things like bedtime, mealtime, wake up times, or even watching television or chatting with a relative.
It’s okay if your normal routines are totally out of whack right now. All of us (parenting included) are processing a lot around what’s going on with COVID-19, and disrupted routines is a very normal part of this stress. I tend to fall into the group of parents who enjoys regular routines (which is DIFFERENT than a strict schedule – more on that in the podcast), but Lori shares that sometimes the conversation around routines have made her feel guilty. Her natural temperament is a little more spontaneous and flexible, while mine tends to be more regular. Another consideration for this difference is that my kids are younger and Lori’s are older… This is just one more example why, at The Science of Parenting, we talk about a pluralistic approach to parenting, which basically just means that we believe there is more than one way to raise great kids.
Routines are ONE TOOL in our parenting toolbox. For me, having some regular routines provides me and my kiddos some feelings of consistency and normality around bedtimes, mealtimes, and wake times in the midst of the chaos with COVID-19. For Lori, she shares that the one routine she has chosen to focus on is wake up time. Both approaches are great, and even small routines can help provide some comfort and consistency to our kids.
An example from awhile ago when I used routines as a tool for my parenting is about a year ago when we were having battles and meltdowns every day when it was time for sleep. I mentioned it to my good friend Lori (ironic, I know), and she suggested maybe developing a little sleeptime routine and visual plan could help smooth the process out. Developing some consistency of what my daughter could expect at bedtime and nap time helped reduce the disagreements!
So if you are feeling like you are floundering around during this unprecedented time, consider if developing (or revisiting) some simple routines of comfort for you and your family could help you feel better. If it feels overwhelming to you to tackle lots of routines at once, it’s great to even just start with one. Remember to give yourself some grace during these unprecedented time. You are the expert on yourself, your kids, and your family, only you know what’s best for all of you during this time. You’re doing great work.
Hear more about the research and reality on routines in our bonus podcast episode.