It’s something that’s easy to forget or hold on to in our busy lives, but structure and healthy boundaries (building block number 7 in my 10 Building Blocks for Resilience model) help our children to manage their world better.
Simple routines – especially before and after school, and as we head to bed – reduce stress for children as they know what is going to happen.
Notice I wrote “simple routines” because we need to be mindful that what seems simple for us might be too much for a small child to remember or to manage. Parents tell me often that they end up nagging and raising their voice while managing more than one child to do the things that are expected at any given time. My message – keep it simple.
For some children getting out of bed, eating their breakfast and getting dressed is about all they are capable of especially if they are not larks. Like temperament, some of our children are much better in the morning than others. This also means some find it harder to go to sleep at night – I call them the owls. Keeping routines age-appropriate, while being mindful of temperaments and gender differences can help us create routines that work more easily without causing undue parental stress.
Some days are better than other days and having that flexibility of knowing that children’s energy, which is expressed through their self-regulation, varies day to day. Afternoon routines also need to have flexibility. Some days our children bounce home with lots of energy and enthusiasm, and other days I know I often almost need to be carried in the door, and our kids are no different. Some calm quiet time to regroup after school is helpful for all ages. It helps to fill up our children’s energy cup before we begin the routine that often includes homework, dinner, bath time, story time and then hopefully bedtime. Remember that many boys in particular can have difficulty listening and remembering, so having visual reminders as well as time reminders can help them stay on track.
Simple routines can help our children develop organisation skills.
Where do we put our bag after school every day, take out our lunch box and put it on the sink, check for any notes from school. It can work better if you have hooks for each different child’s bag, or like me you’ll end up with a pile of bags in the hallway and usually it was me who fell over them.
Even though structure is great in children’s lives for reducing chaos – it’s also really important to have a spontaneous moments where we break routine to have fun or to enjoy the beautiful world outside. Having time to play and just be kids is equally as important as project managing the schooling journey. Childhood is short and play is a beneficial and life-enhancing activity even if it is difficult to assess in a test.
Chaos is a normal part of childhood because humans are impossible to control and contain.
Try not to sweat the small stuff so you have energy for the big stuff. Sometimes make yourself a quiet cuppa in amongst the chaos and step outside in the garden, or if you don’t have a garden maybe your bedroom. Having calm parents is the best way to help our children be calm. Please avoid beating yourself up when things don’t go the way you plan. I made many mistakes (which my sons love to remind me of now) however it was the positive, constructive and loving choices I made that really made the difference.
Aim to be that parent 80% of the time and allow yourself to be the imperfect parent who mucks up the other 20% of the time. Be grateful for the gift of life and be a positive part of the ‘village’ – the community around you that helps to raise your children with you.