When do you need a new daily routine?
If you feel your family doesn’t spend enough time together having fun or family life isn’t running smoothly, a new routine might help.
A new routine can be useful for busy and stressful times of the day. For example, you might need a new routine to help your family get ready for school and work.
A new routine might also help if something is regularly causing conflict in your family. This could be when you’re going shopping, or when children fight over whose turn it is to feed the dog.
If you’re constantly asking or nagging other people to do things, or you’re getting frustrated and angry, this might also be a sign that you need a new daily routine. For example, a new routine can encourage your child to complete chores, do homework or get ready for bed.
Routines are particularly useful when you’re trying to help family members develop new or better habits, like good hygiene.
As your child grows and develops or you change jobs, you might want to revise your routines or create new ones to take these changes into account.
Thinking about a new routine
Here are things to think about if you’re working on new daily routines for your family.
It’s good to start by talking about new routines with your partner before talking about them with your child. This way you can make sure you both agree and understand what your goals are.
By the time child is about 5 years old, you can get their help with new routines. It’s especially good for teenagers to have a say in their own daily routines. This can ensure that the routine includes time for doing homework or going out with friends.
Routines need to meet the everyday needs of individual family members, but they also need to meet more long-term goals. For example, if having regular quality family time is an important long-term goal in your family, try to have routines that help you achieve this goal.
Changes in family life
It helps to have routines you can adapt as things change. For example, as your child grows they can take on more responsibility for things like getting themselves dressed for school. Or you might need a new routine as your child gets involved in sport or other activities.
A new routine could also be part of an old one. For example, if your child needs to take a new medicine, you could add this to your child’s routine, just before brushing teeth.
Successful routines often build on family strengths, so you can think about what your family members are good at and work these strengths into the routine. For example, if one child is better at getting up early, that child could have the first turn in the bathroom.
Building fun or play into a routine can help it run smoothly. For example, you could make your morning routine into a game, and you could praise your child or let your child earn rewards like stickers for getting ready on time.
Age and ability
If you have children of different ages, routines will work well if they’re suited to your children’s ages and abilities. For example, your preschooler might help with the evening routine by putting placemats on the table, while your older child helps by clearing away plates after dinner.
If you’re setting up a new routine, you might need to remind family members about it until everyone gets used to it.
You can also use prompts to remind your child of the routine. For example, the end of a TV show can mark the start of a bedtime routine. Or an older child could use an alarm clock to get up in the morning. Simple lists can be good reminders if you put them where everyone can see them. If your child is younger, you could make a chart or picture book showing the family routine.
It takes time to overcome old habits and learn new ways of behaving, so you’ll need to give your new routine time to work.
If your child isn’t happy about changes to a routine, try making smaller changes over time rather than one big change. Celebrate effort, cooperation and success by giving your child praise or even rewards until the routine becomes part of what they regularly do.
How to design a new routine: steps
These steps can help when you’re designing a new routine.
1. Work out a goal
The goal of a new morning routine might be that your child is ready for school by 8.30 am – dressed, shoes on, breakfast eaten, teeth and hair brushed, and school bag packed with everything they need for the day.
2. List the individual steps in the order they need to happen
The steps for a new morning routine might be:
- 7 am – get up.
- 7.15-7.45 am – have breakfast and put plates in sink.
- 7.45-8 am – clean teeth, brush hair, put on sunscreen.
- 8-8.15 am – put on school uniform, socks and shoes.
- 8.15-8.30 am – pack school bag with lunch, books and so on.
This step involves working out the timing of the routine. How much time does each step take? What time will you need to start so you can get everything done and allow time for the unexpected?
3. Work out what your child can do independently and what you’ll need to help with
For example, you might need or like to get your child’s breakfast, but perhaps you can teach your child how to get dressed.
4. Think about ways of setting up the routine for success
This is about making sure everyone knows what they’re expected to do in the routine. You might also need to remove distractions. For example, if your child gets distracted by their phone in the morning, the phone could stay in a family area until your child is ready for school.
5. Consider any new family rules
If you make some simple, clear rules about the kind of behaviour you expect, it will help your child know what to do. For example, you might have a rule about sitting at the table to eat breakfast.
6. Try to build in time for talking or fun
For example, if you allow 30 minutes for breakfast, you might have time to eat with your child and have a chat.
7. Talk through the steps of the routine
Before you put a new routine into action, talk everyone through the steps of the routine. Be prepared to do this more than once until it’s clear for the whole family.