Not only do daily routines provide structure and help keep the household running smoothly, they also make children feel safe, according to Dr. Laura Markham, clinical psychologist and parenting coach. Since so many things are new to children, they often experience fear of the unknown. A predictable daily routine makes them feel more in control of themselves and their environment. She lists six specific benefits of establishing routines: an end to power struggles; better cooperation; children feel in charge of themselves; they learn how to look forward to things because they can trust when to expect them; children sleep better; and parents find it easier to be consistent.
Morning routines make it much easier to get everyone to school and work on time. Lisa Wallace, University of Missouri Extension human development specialist, suggests parents give each child an alarm clock and teach her how to use it. If the child tends to be slow in the mornings, she suggests setting the clock ahead five or 10 minutes. Wallace advises parents to make a rule that children do not turn on the television or computer until they are completely ready for school. Mornings will be easier if parents do as much as possible the night before to prepare for the next day, such as making lunches, laying out clothes and signing permission slips. On weekends, the morning routine can be more relaxed. Serve a special breakfast, such as pancakes or coffeecake, and talk about plans for the weekend.
When everybody helps with the chores, they get accomplished more easily. Children can learn to take responsibility for their own things by making their beds, putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket and picking up their toys each day. Families can rotate chores for shared living quarters, such as unloading the dishwasher, cleaning bathrooms and preparing meals. Don't expect perfection as children are learning, but encourage them as they progress toward the goals. Work together on big chores, such as cleaning the garage or raking the yard, and celebrate your accomplishments with a family pizza party.
According to University of Florida assistant professor in the department of family, youth and community sciences Larry Forthun, writing on the school's website, families who share meals together reap many benefits. They eat healthier foods, are less likely to be overweight and feel closer as a family; and the children are less likely to smoke, use alcohol or become depressed, and more likely to get good grades. To make sitting down for a meal together a positive experience, families should keep the conversation light, avoid criticizing one another and maintain a sense of humor. Parents should provide a good example by using appropriate table manners and not texting or taking phone calls during meals with the family.
Bedtime can be a battle or a time for building closer relationships. Help children establish good hygiene habits, including brushing teeth and bathing, and start early in the evening so they don't feel rushed. Allow a child to choose a bedtime story and then spend a few minutes at her bedside, laying or sitting next to her and talking about the day. Dr. Markham suggests parents ask the child what she was grateful for that day and what she is looking forward to about tomorrow, ending the daily routines on a positive note.
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