It’s a new year!! Getting into Healthy School Routines
With the start of the new school year now underway, some parents wonder how they can best help their child settle easily into new school routines.
Psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg, spoke on Radio 6PR about school routines and argues it’s better to get started early and it’s worth the battle: “Getting them to go to bed, have a ritual, have a routine; it actually reinforces what family is all about” (29/01/20).
So, how do you help your child get into a new routine? It takes time, but once established, will make daily family life far more peaceful.
It is important that, where possible, your child begins their evening bedtime routine at the same time each night. This routine might look something like this:
- 7pm – Finish dinner and help pack away table/kitchen
- 7.15-7.30pm – Shower/bath time
- 7.45pm – Read with parent/independent reading time (in bedroom with dimmed lighting)
- 8.15-8.30pm – Lights out
Note: You may need to adjust the timeframes to suit the needs of your family, but you are aiming for 9-11 hours of sleep each night (6-13-years old) (National Sleep Foundation). Also, avoid screen time where possible as this is more likely to keep your child awake then it is to help them settle.
Being consistent with a routine means that your child’s sleep cues begin with shower/bath time so that by 8-8.30pm, your child is relaxed, settled and ready to rest.
Waking your child up at the same time each morning will reinforce this sleep routine. Follow this up with a similar routine in the morning so that your child becomes more independent with their self-organisation.
- 7.00am – Wake up
- 7.15am – Breakfast
- 7.40am – Brush teeth and get dressed
- 8.00am – Make lunches / Pack school bag
- 8.15am – Ready for school
It is useful to establish a routine for after school as well so that your child is returning home with an idea of what to expect.
For example, you might give your child time to get home, have afternoon tea and relax before they get into their homework. Setting up a space for them to do their homework that is free from distraction will assist them during this time.
What do you do if your child resists a routine?
If you don’t have routines already established, expect some resistance at first! Of course, your child is going to resist being told to be in bed by 7.30 if he/she has become accustomed to going to be at 8.30! However, building routines with your children helps them to feel safe. They know what to expect when they go home and it provides them with clear boundaries, expectations, and consistency.
If your children are old enough (from Year 2 up), it can help to have a conversation with them explaining the changes. For example, “We have noticed that you are finding it hard to get up in the morning and you are so tired by the end of the day…We have had a lovely Summer holiday but we we’ve also had lots of late nights. This week we are going to try and get to bed earlier so, from Monday we are going to start getting ourselves ready for bed after dinner.” Then remind them on a few occasions during the day that you will start the new routine (for example, in the morning and when they get home from school). Involve them in the discussion, show them that you’re excited about this change, that it is good for everyone in the family, because it is!!! If your children are settled of an evening, it allows you to have some well-earned quiet time of an evening too!
Having a visual cue to support the new routine in the home can also be a useful tool. For example, on a large sheet of paper, note down the new routine and place in a central place, for example, the fridge/kitchen cupboard/door, etc. Also noting the week routine (sports days, library days, after school activities) can help your children anticipate what is expected of them each day.
Another benefit of having a routine is that it tends to reduce the amount of tension in the home. For example, if your child is not sure whether they will be allowed to play the iPad when they get home, they will begin nagging soon after being picked up from school and will be disappointed when the answer is no, tending to whinge and nag (maybe tantrum!). However, if your child knows that they are not allowed iPad time until 5pm (for 30 minutes) when they have finished their homework and Mum is cooking, you will avoid those difficult interactions.
Your home is the easiest place to learn long-term behaviours and to develop healthy habits. It also helps children to understand the concepts of consequences, boundaries and rewards. So, keep your routine as consistent as possible, as this will support your children in feeling that their lives are safe and predictable in their ever-changing world (and make your life a little easier too).
Carr-Gregg, M. (2020) Radio 6PR. https://www.6pr.com.au/start-the-school-year-routine-now-michael-carr-gregg/ [Accessed 4th February, 2020].
National Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/support/how-much-sleep-do-babies-and-kids-need [Accessed 4th February, 2020].
AEDC Counsellor and Social Skills Group Coordinator – Sarah has had ten years combined experience as a Teacher and School Counsellor, holding both educational (Postgrad Dip Ed) and psychological qualifications, receiving First Class Honours in the Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) degree.