Why Routines Matter For Children
Routines are important for children, especially after a big transition.
Big changes in your family can lead to significant changes to your child's routine. Transitions can be distressing for children, particularly if it means that their family will go from all living under one roof to being spread across two. Even if their schedule must change, getting your kids back to a routine will be helpful in re-establishing structure and a sense of security in their lives.
Why Do Routines Matter for Children?
Children thrive when they know what to expect out of their day. For young children, a routine helps them to grasp time, even if they can't read clocks yet. For example, a child will begin to remember the order in which different events play out throughout their day: after breakfast, they go to school or daycare; once you pick them up from school or daycare, they come home, have dinner, then after playtime comes bedtime. This will give them some sense of control and consistency over their day.
Routines also give children a feeling of security which is key to upholding their sense of safety. Even if they don't see both of their parents every day, understanding their routine and when they'll be with each of their parents will provide that confidence which gives them peace of mind. Along with security comes a sense of trust. When a child is able to trust their routine and the people involved in it, they feel even more secure and safe to concentrate on learning, playing, and growing.
How to Rebuild a Routine
After a recent divorce or separation, rebuilding a routine for your child may seem like a confusing task. How can you make them attain that same sense of safety and trust in their new routine after such a difficult change for your family?
First, it's important to maintain what you can from their previous schedule. If they can attend the same school or daycare, see the same friends, and even eat the same foods, that will help to create a base in their new routine. That being said, it's important not to try and pretend like things haven't changed. Your child's days will never be exactly as they once were, but you can all move forward and thrive once again. Focus on what your child needs and how you can give those things to them. Think about their age and their level of development as you work into the changes, too.
Additionally, try to work together as co-parents to formulate this new routine. Know that your routines don't have to match precisely, but knowing what each other's routines are and finding certain places where they match can help you both help your child become accustomed to them. Having consistent expectations about your children's behaviour in each of your households will help your children adjust to their new routines. Upholding similar rules may also be helpful during this transition, but your house rules may not stay the same forever. You might have rules that match more closely at the onset of your separation but could evolve over time based on your child's needs and the needs of your own household. Even if your rules differ slightly, children can adapt to different rules depending on where they are. They already do so at school, at friend's houses, and at other places they visit throughout their day.
Routines matter for children, especially after they experience a big change. Routines give them not only structure that they can count on, but they also help teach them about time and the flow of a normal day. When rebuilding a routine, do what you can to find some confluence between the schedules and rules in each of your child's homes. That said, your child will adapt to some differences between the expectations in each home. As co-parents, maintaining communication about your child's needs and how well they are adapting to their new routine will make this big transition easier for your whole family.