Create Routines That Free You

Dare we say ‘routine’ quite yet!?

Have you marked your calendars with extracurricular activities, self care appointments, dates with your spouse, blood work, or maybe just some free time and space with no interruptions? I am personally in the throes of all this and feel really happy to be doing so. 

By the way…to all you mama's out there, Congratulations! 6 months later our kids are in school or some kind of structured education.  That was a wild ride with ups and downs and lots of stuff coming to the surface to be acknowledged, to say the very least.I have done a lot of research over the past few years about routines and their significance within our own personal lives and within the family structure. As we are now settling the kids into new routines and schedules, here are 7 reasons they are important: 

  1. Routines create a predictable environment which makes young people feel safe and secure, particularly in stressful times or during difficult stages of development. 
  2. Routines can strengthen family bonds and relationships, especially when built around having fun or spending quality time together. For example, reading a story together before bed or going for a special snack after soccer practice can become a special time for you and your child to share.
  3. Routines can reduce stress, which helps children's immune systems stay strong.
  4. Daily routines help set our body clocks too. For example, bedtime routines help children's bodies acknowledge when it's time to sleep. Taking time to have a bowel movement at the same time every morning can promote healthy elimination and natural detoxification. Believe me, there are a lot of people full of sh*t simply because they haven't created healthy habits to void regularly and consistently.
  5. Routines help us create healthy habits such as daily exercise.
  6. Routines help us develop responsibility and time management skills. Having chores to do in family routines helps children develop a sense of responsibility and some basic skills like the ability to manage time. These are skills children can use for life.
  7. Routines help build confidence and independence especially when adults share the schedule and expectations with children.

Flexibility is an integral piece when attempting to create structure and routine so that spontaneity and space for creativity can exist. When a schedule becomes too regimented or strict, the benefits will be reduced, and children and adults alike may feel controlled by it rather than freed by it.

Effective routines share 3 key features:

  1. They are well planned and everyone understands their roles, knows what they need to do and sees their roles as reasonable and fair. For example, your children know that they take turns clearing the table and loading the dishwasher each night after dinner.
  2. They are regular and consistent and become part of everyday family life. For example, you might all look forward to Sunday dinners with your children's grandparents.
  3. They are predictable and things happen in the same order each time. For example, you always do laundry on the weekend so you know you have clean clothes for Monday morning.

Routines take some effort to create. But once you've set them up, they have lots of benefits not only for the children but for adults as well. 

    • Routines help you get through your daily tasks and free up time for other things.
    • Regular and consistent routines can help you feel like you're doing a good job as a parent and give you a sense of empowerment and peace.
    • When life is busy, routines can help you feel more organized and in control, which lowers stress.
    • Routines often free you from having to resolve disputes and make decisions. They literally free up your hard drive. For example, if Wednesday night is pizza night, no one needs to argue about what's for dinner and likewise you don't have to wonder every Wednesday what you are cooking for dinner.

“We will do more for others than for ourselves. And in doing something for others, we find our reason for courage, and our cause for focus and excellence.”~Brendon BurchardYoung or old, having a sense of purpose and direction is necessary for a lifetime and is very important for our mental health. Routines that motivate and excite us are certainly more inspiring than those that feel rigid and mundane. Obviously some are going to be more juicy and riveting than others. Just be sure to have enough to provoke the desire to get out of bed in the morning and that will also be sustainable and attainable.

So what kinds of things should we create routines around for all members in our families? Perhaps I am bias as an Acupuncturist, but I say let's go back to the fundamentals that create and sustain our health and happiness. Based on these tenets, here are the 15 areas I think are important to provide structure around:

  1. Physical Activity. Play, games, sports, recreation, physical education, walking to and from school all count.
  2. Bedtime. This includes naps (more for babies), story time, dimming the lights 20-30 min before you expect the children to be asleep, lowering the temperature in the home, turning off screens at least one hour before bed, etc. Be sure each person is getting enough sleep. Waking and settling can tie in well with self hygiene habits (ie. brushing and flossing teeth before bed, emptying the bladder, putting on pj's, dressing - experimenting with styles that makes them feel great, etc)
  3. Hydration. Teaching our kids to hydrate well throughout the day can prevent a lot of complaints down the road.
  4. Eating. Eating regularly around the same time everyday.  Eating meals together as a family. Cooking together. Hosting people. Meals planning (ie. Taco Tuesday). Wash your hands and fresh food before eating! 
  5. Fresh Air daily. According to the World Health Organization, we spend around 90% of our time stuck indoors.
  6. Date nights, with each individual family member for some quality one on one time.
  7. Family time.  Whether it's watching a movie all together weekly or Friday game night, time together is special and kids notice and feel special when you make time for them in the schedule.
  8. Bowel movements. The bowels are most active between 5 and 7am according to the natural circadian rhythms of the body. Taking the time to empty shortly after waking is a good time to train the body to eliminate. 
  9. Time and space to be creative and use the imagination. If we don't want our kids to act like robots, we need to provide the space in their schedule to be creative and innovative. I think it is really important not to succumb to the modern day parenting epidemic of over scheduling our kids.
  10. Down time and alone time are magical times. Create space for this.
  11. Chores. Be clear about what you want people to do and when you want them to do their chores.
  12. Give thanks and offer gratitude. Meditate. I like to do this in the morning and start the day with the glass half full.
  13. Time for TLC. Things like baths, foot soaks, putting your feet up and reading book, a walk in nature, and napping can go a long way to restoring the body and recharging the batteries.
  14. Extracurricular activities. Schedule ones that excite and are of at least some interest to your children. Remember not to project your dreams onto your kids and listen to what appeals to them. 
  15. Self care (ie. acupuncture, massage, chiropractic). If you don't have the benefits or the financial freedom for such luxuries, learn the basics of massage and take time to therapeutically caress your children and partner.  This can be great bonding time. They'll love you for life :-)

Creating routines ultimately helps the emotional well-being of all members in the family and the smooth functioning of the home in which they live. An organized and predictable home environment helps children feel safe, secure and cared for. As caregivers I believe this is our main responsibility and obligation to our children - to create a stable foundation in which everyone can thrive.

September is a transition month by which we are all trying to implement and figure out a new schedule. Go on now, I encourage you to have some fun creating and incorporating routines that feel accommodating, supportive, purposeful, and flexible for all members in the family. Get the kids involved by asking for their input.

Happy New Year to you all! 


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