Returning to school is an exciting and stressful time of the year. Many factors affect a child’s response – development, experience, temperament, life events, and more. With different start schedules throughout the Valley, some of your students have been back to school for about a month while others are into weeks 2 or 3.

At this point, you have navigated the initial weeks and have settled into a routine. Now, it is important to ask yourself if that routine is effectively meeting your needs.

Finding a successful routine for your entire family is challenging. You are all very different, and that’s important to acknowledge. Sometimes finding something that works everyone feels even more stressful than not having one, however, having a routine that doesn’t help your family can cause you a significant amount of unnecessary stress.

Stress negatively affects our ability to adapt, tolerate, and thrive in everyday, normal situations. For children and youth, this may mean behavioral challenges, lack of interest in normal activities, lower grades, forgetfulness, depression, exhaustion, and more.

Establishing a consistent routine for your family helps you all manage stress and is a crucial component to many evidence based parenting programs, including Active Parenting and Love and Logic.

Here are a few ideas to help you navigate establishing a successful routine for your family!

If your current routine isn’t working, scrap it.

Sometimes your routine simply doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, take the lessons you learned and try something new. Do your research – ask your student what they think isn’t working, talk to your pediatrician and school social workers, ask family members what works for their kids, and read articles written by reliable sources.

Putting in the work now will help you as the year continues. 

Get your student involved in creating the routine.

Yes, talk to your student. Teach them the importance of being assertive with their needs in an appropriate manner.

Family meetings are a great method of getting everyone on the same page. It promotes open and honest discussions, while teaching them how to have a respectful conversation.

Also, if they help to establish the routine, then they will have more buy-in to making it work successfully.

Consider your student’s temperament.

Every person is different, and temperament effects your needs as a human. This is very much true for routines as well. Some students need more time in the morning to successfully to transition to their day. This may mean one child needs to wake up 20 minutes early to sit at the table and slowly eat breakfast while others need less time at the table. There is nothing innately good or bad about either need, but we want to accommodate that in our daily routines.

For more information on parenting with temperament in mind, check out our free workshop Understanding Temperament.

Build in enough time for sleep.

Many of our students – especially teens – don’t get enough sleep. When we’re tired, we aren’t at our best. Many students struggle to wake up in the morning and/or go to bed at night. This effects their behavior, grades, attitude, and mental and physical health.

Take a look at your student’s sleep routine as well as the amount of sleep they are actually getting. The Center Disease Control and Prevention details recommended hours of sleep per night by age group. Use it as a reference point to prioritize sleep and a healthy sleep routine that allows your student (and you!) enough time to refuel.

Also…don’t forget play.

Play is incredibly important to all of us – littles through adults. Assess your routine…are you completely structured all the time? If so, you may want to take a step back and ask yourself what you can eliminate in order to build in time for the whole family to simply play. Play will reduce your stress as well as your child’s stress. It’s one of the most effective coping skills you can build into your life.

Take care you.

Self-care is an important piece of your personal mental and physical health as a parent. Getting enough sleep and building in time for play isn’t just for your children. Do it for you, too, or your children won’t buy in to the concept that having a healthy routine with these aspects are important. As adults, we model the behavior we want to see.

Learn more about stress and healthy coping skills for adults by attending our free parenting workshop Managing Stress as a Parent!

— Chelsea Grieve is a Program Specialist at Child Crisis Arizona where she provides support to our shelter, family education and counseling programs. She also teaches parenting education classes, runs skill building groups for children and teens, and is a certified trainer for nonviolent crisis intervention, conscious discipline and active parenting. Chelsea is a committed advocate for child welfare and has been active in the movement to end violence against children since 2006.