How routine can be your lifesaver
Over the holidays, I have been checking in with my Year 12 students on how they are coping while isolating at home.
The current stay at home period is an ideal time to look at the routines you can establish to help your son feel less anxious in times of unpredictability.
Setting up a routine benefits your child’s mental health and wellbeing, but yours too. Importantly, a routine helps decrease anxiety and increase comfort. This is essential for any child, regardless of age.
With many schools moving to distance learning, a routine will help to set your son up for success at home and can help to maintain family peace.
Here are some tips on how to structure your day in these uncertain times.
Stick with a daily routine
Have a wake-up time and a bedtime, and (where possible) stick with these, especially on the weekdays. Have meal times around the same time every day. Not only does this give boundaries to the daily routine, but having a set wake up time and bedtime can have great benefits for the quality of your sleep.
Make a list of the things that your family usually does during the week. Then work out what you can sensibly keep as part of the daily routine, what can be modified and what can be ‘let go’ for now. When working on the weekly schedule, make time for the things you often look forward to, such as movie or board games nights, or themed dinners such as Taco Tuesday.
Set a work-from-home routine
Consider chunking work time into small regular sessions (e.g. 30 minutes and then a break), or a large session during the day and free family time afterward. How this works can be a family decision, but once you have scheduled in work time stick with the plan, as this is now part of the routine.
Build exercise time into your day. This could be at the start, middle or end of your day – or you could have several bite size exercise times during the day.
Set time for play
Play is an essential part of any boy’s day, regardless of age. For Junior School boys, we recommend at least 2–3 hours of free playtime per day. For Secondary School boys, they should have at least 2 hours of free playtime (separate to screen time).
Free play time could include games, creative play, kicking the footy, listening to music, having a chat, or calling a friend.
Make time to be outside. You should be outside in nature for a minimum of 1-2 hours per day. Again, more is better. This could mean just hanging out in your backyard, or going for a walk.
Manage screen time
Inevitably, your family will be using screens, particularly for work and schoolwork. As a family, it is ultimately up to you to decide how long you use screens. By including outside time and play time/free time throughout the day, this will help to minimise unnecessary screen time.
For teenagers, free time could include use of their phones. We would recommend you allow this, but with some parameters. For example, your son’s phone and laptop should not be in their rooms at bedtime. They should leave them with you, and get them back at breakfast time.
Make alone time
It is important to have time each day where you are not on top of each other. We recommend that you plan sometime in the day where you each have your own alone time.
Make time for fun
Make time for magic moments together. Although the current situation can be stressful, this is also an opportunity to spend more time together and create some special memories.
This could be as simple as sharing stories your kids haven’t heard before, building something together, pitching a tent in the backyard, painting a mural on your garden fence or toasting marshmallows…. the only limit here is your imagination!
Be kind to yourself
Relax your standards for housekeeping. This will likely mean accepting that there will be more mess and noise around the house, or more screen time, and privileges, or making a simple dinner with less clean up. This is all okay.
These are all suggestions and can be changed to suit your family. The key with routine is simply just to stick with it. This does not mean following it precisely to the minute – flexibility is everything. However, on a day when you all need to be more relaxed, try at least to stick with the order.
Further reading available here on the importance and power of routines.
Meg Adem is a Science and Psychology teacher, writer and Head of House at Brighton Grammar, an all-boys school in Melbourne. This article is about Parenting
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