We’ve all heard it- Following a routine is important. These unique times are no exception. The kids are out of school, home from daycare, parents are working from home; no one is traveling, visiting family, or going out as frequently as before. This less demanding social calendar makes it that much more tempting to stay in those pajamas a little longer and approach the day as it comes. It’s easy to do, but there are many reasons why sticking to a schedule and having a routine is so beneficial! Most of us have never lived through a pandemic before so this is new for all of us. We have all been forced to learn a new routine, adjust, and adapt.
We are accustomed to routine
Consider the routines you were following before COVID-19. Our kids wake up early, get dressed, and follow a routine at a school or daycare. If you think about it, they will realistically be doing that for the rest of their lives as they go to college, start a career, etc. Removing structure, expectations, and routines will allow for more time to be less productive. This is not good for their little learning brains! “Brain research indicates that birth to age three are the most important years in a child’s development”, says The California Department of Education. Taking away a normal routine also brings on a level of uncertainty and unpredictability, which can lead to increased levels of anxiety. Having a schedule, set expectations, and boundaries provides a safe and comfortable space for our children. Routines can be a powerful way to reinforce a feeling of well-being and stability.
Routines develop healthy habits
Maintaining a schedule and routine will also encourage kids to develop lifelong healthy habits! “One of the easiest ways to make new habits stick is by pairing them with other rituals that are already in place”, says Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than Before, a book that looks at the science of habit creation. If there are certain habits you would like to add to your child’s routine, combine them with ones that you already do. For example, if you’d like them to start cleaning their room once a day, have it become the ritual before dinner time. If you’d like reading to be part of the daily routine, incorporate it before bed time. The key to making good habits stick is to do them regularly.
Make routines fun!
In speech therapy at CSHC, we often use a visual schedule with pictures of our activities planned for the day. It allows the speech therapist to create an outline for the session from start to finish. It also gives the child the ability to move the picture of the activity off when they complete it. This is especially helpful for our kids who are visual learners and a great way to make a routine fun! Being able to see their progress and all the work they have done makes them feel more successful and confident.
Routines for children with ASD
Maintaining a routine is especially important for our children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Many of these children have difficulty regulating emotions. Any change from a particular routine can result in increased anxiety, tantrums, and stress. Routines can provide a sense of reassurance and security for almost everyone. When that sense of stability and wellness is fulfilled, it can actually be easier for children to handle other changes.
Thank you for reading! We hope this information was helpful and encourages you to add something new to your day with your kids.
Blog written by Tina Mars, M.S., CCC-SLP. Tina is a Speech-Language Pathologist at Charlotte Speech and Hearing Center.