Our children might fondly remember the family vacations and the big events in life, but it is the daily routines - the ins and outs of life each day - that truly define our family systems and shapes the people within them. Regular, predictable routines provide comfort to children and may help mitigate meltdowns and thwart troublesome behaviors.
When your child eats, sleeps, naps, plays, reads, and snuggles in a predictable pattern, it simply makes life easier for everyone. The problem, of course, is that it is impossible to maintain a routine every single day. There are trips that must be made, visits from friends and family, and unforeseen issues that crop up. Weekday routines differ from weekend routines, especially when kids enter school. In other words, life happens.
This is why I prefer the term rhythm. It’s less rigid, and less constricting. It’s more of a daily flow that, to me, feels lighter and more joyful.
Giving your child age-appropriate choices and control over her daily rhythm will help eliminate power struggles by helping her feel heard, valued, and important. For toddlers, that means encouraging them to choose their clothing during morning dressing (from a range of appropriate choices). For teens, it means standing back, inviting them to create their own life, and offering guidance when needed.
Generally, you will want to create a morning rhythm that includes getting dressed, eating breakfast, and gathering backpack and school items. This will take a lot of drama out of the mornings. When children learn to prepare the night before by laying out clothes, packing their lunches, and assuring that homework is in the backpack along with any papers that need to be signed, you’ll start the day off with less stress automatically.
An afternoon rhythm will be dependent on the child’s age and the family preferences but could include craft time, playtime, lunch, cleanup, and music. An evening rhythm might include cleaning up, a warm bath, and story time. Rhythms are as unique as individuals, and the goal is to simply find one that feels good for your family.
Adding in Loving Rituals To Enhance Connection
Loving rituals become cherished memories for children. Here are some daily rituals that build connection and strengthen relationships.
Start The Day With Morning Kindness
Mornings can be a real hassle. Trying to get everyone up and out the door on time is often a stressful time for families. Our adult minds are focused on the dozens of things we must accomplish in the next twelve hours, and our children are often tired, grumpy, or preoccupied with their own thoughts about the day ahead. Taking two or three minutes in the morning to focus on your child’s face and say something positive can really have a big impact.
“Good morning, my love! I feel happy when I see your sweet face.” This is a thoughtful way to greet a child into his day.
I think “Triple-A to start the day.” That stands for attention, affection, and affirmation. Aim to give your child your full attention for a least a couple of minutes, offer a hug or rub on the head, and say something positive about him. Making this a daily habit starts each day off on the right foot.
Afternoon Or After-School Gathering
Do the children get home from school and scatter in every direction? Mine tend to do that. Even if you homeschool or your children are still very young, creating an afternoon or after-school gathering provides another connection point in your day. Some ideas for this gathering include tea time, a spread of fruits with dip or cheese and crackers, a round of Uno, or reading aloud a chapter from a good book. This can easily be adjusted to after-dinner or before-bath gatherings. The time on the clock is not important. It’s the time spent together that matters.
A Meal At The Table
I understand that this is sometimes a lofty goal. Work schedules can interfere, as can extracurricular activities and a myriad of other things. Perhaps an early-morning breakfast works better for your family or even a dessert-only gathering later in the evening. Research from Cornell University suggests that the benefits of family meals are many, including healthier eating for kids, improved psychological well-being, greater academic achievement, and even less delinquency! It’s worth making it a priority to build this connecting habit at least a few times a week.
One-On-One Time At Bedtime
In my house, we call this “special time,” and I’m surprised by how much my children crave this individual attention, because until recently, I was with them all day every day as a homeschooling mom! I created this habit when they started attending school to build in some special time to hear about their days so they don’t have to talk over each other or be interrupted.
I initially set it at 10 minutes per child, but we often talk well beyond that because children really do open up their hearts during this time. If they don’t have much to talk about, it’s a great time for me to ask them questions like, “Tell me something good that happened today,” or “Is there anything you’re worried about or want to ask?”
We are living in busy days where heart-to-heart connection is suffering. Yes, sticking with these routines and rituals requires intention and perhaps even sacrifice, but the rewards are great. There is nothing more special, or more important, after all, than the relationships we are building and the memories we are creating.