Savvy Tips for Organizing Your Day

Andrea Evans
January 8, 2016

Sometimes it feels like we live on treadmills, running from one appointment to the next, multi-tasking all day long. We barely have time to sit down for a nutritious breakfast, much less plan what the family will have for dinner. It can be overwhelming for parents. And, it can exact a heavy toll on families. In fact, study after study has demonstrated that children crave structure and predictability, particularly when they are young.

How can parents provide that kind of structure when they have neither the time nor the energy to think a few days ahead? The best and surest way to a more harmonious day is to incorporate some routines into your daily schedule. Indeed, the American Psychological Association recently completed a 50-year review of family rituals and routines. The review found that family routines and rituals are "powerful organizers of family life that offer stability during times of stress and transition." The study also found that routines and rituals are associated with marital satisfaction, adolescents' sense of personal identity, children's health, academic achievement, and stronger family relationships. 

By routines, we do not necessarily mean hard and fast edicts that, for example, divide your day into fifteen minute intervals: 6:30 for bath, 6:45 for dinner; 7:00 story time, etc. A routine does not need to be rigid to be effective. Likewise, a routine need not be elaborate. It simply needs to be consistent, well thought-out, and meaningful. Here are some things to consider in developing your family's routines:

  1. Get as much input as you can from your family and talk it through with your spouse or partner (and children if they are old enough to contribute).  A routine that works for everyone will be much easier for everyone to accept and stick to.
  2. Start by focusing on the part of your day that is most challenging. Do you find it nearly impossible to get your children ready and off to school on time? Or is bedtime a struggle? If mornings are too chaotic, try to do as much preparation as possible the night before (pick out school clothes, pack backpacks, etc.). And, if bedtime stretches on for hours, start your routine a little earlier and establish some specific guideposts so that your child knows exactly what to expect. Something as simple as explaining that you will read, for example, only three books before bed time will help your child learn that she cannot keep reaching for books on the bookshelf.
  3. Swap roles with your spouse or partner. Let your children see that both parents can do story time or make breakfast. It will help them appreciate both of their parents and help them understand how their parents work together so that the entire family can thrive.
  4. Be realistic. Not everything will go as planned every day. But, try to remember that it's much harder for kids to switch gears than for adults, so alert your child to upcoming changes in the routine and explain why it is being changed.
  5. Be prepared to change your routines. As you know, your children are constantly growing and changing. And, as they do, their needs change.   Don't get so set in your routines that you fail to see that the routines are no longer necessary or working for you. 

From the Parents

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