Routine can get you out of a rut. Makes sense, right? Of course not. But it’s true. Routines for students come to the rescue when your child is stuck in a destructive cycle of stress, poor sleep, lousy diet, fatigue and a constant time crunch. All those consequences come from lack of routine, when stress drives us to make poor choices and allows problems to accumulate. A daily routine for students corrals all the facets of life and offers a sense of control that brings peace of mind to you and your child.
The Benefits of Setting a Daily Routine
A healthy routine for students means more than habits that move your child from the morning alarm to bedtime. A daily morning routine starts the day with assurance. Evening routine sends us to bed confident that everything is taken care of, with fewer worries to keep us awake. Routine promotes your child’s success through these benefits.
- The brain uses less energy: Stress is tiring. Overthinking and anxiety impairs the brain. Routine keeps challenges to molehill size, before they grow into mountains that drain the brain’s resources. Routine releases stress and frees the mind to soar. The geniuses of history, from Ludwig van Beethoven to Ernest Hemingway, relied on routine to focus their brains on their creative pursuits, letting their unconscious minds unleash the brilliance and innovation lurking beneath the surface.
- Achieve more: Children — and adults — have things that they must do and things that they want to do. There never seems to be enough time for either, but routine assigns each to manageable slots every day. Chances are, your family’s days are filled with time puttered away, for no noticeable benefit. Routine banishes those empty-calorie moments to the sidelines, creating more time to accomplish the things that matter.
- Better mental and emotional health: When you take better care of yourself, the stress and anxiety of daily life shrink from outsized to manageable. Routine gives you and your child more time to relax and just think, which improves mental health. All children, including those with ADHD and autism, benefit from the predictability and sense of security that routine provides in their lives.
- Better sleep: Refreshing sleep, uninterrupted by qualms and fears, gives you more energy and focus. Improved sleep sharpens mental focus and performance, while it contributes to emotional well-being.
- Better physical health: Time for activity and exercise builds a stronger, more resilient body. Preparing healthy meals and snacks, instead of grabbing artery-clogging fast foods and packaged junk foods, gives you more energy and wards off illness.
- Academic success: Studies have shown that children who follow productive morning routines get higher grades, are likelier to graduate from high school and have healthier relationships with their peers.
- Domestic bliss: Starting and ending each day with tussles over tasks and responsibilities accomplishes little more than building family friction. The framework of routine tells everyone what’s expected of them and the roles they play. The demands of daily life are managed in automatic fashion, and children learn a crucial lesson — that doing the dishes is important, but the real priority in life is how they grow as people and citizens.
- Agility when change happens: Change is inevitable. Families move. Parents get new jobs. Babies are born. Just the act of being a child plunges kids into scary moments as their bodies and minds grow and mature. Routine gives children a stable foundation. When change comes their way, routine helps them hold on to the sense of mastery over their surroundings.
Habits You Can Build Into Your Daily Routine
Establishing a strong daily routine isn’t easy. Many parents give up after only a few days or weeks, believing that their child simply won’t cooperate.
Engraining a productive, functioning routine takes time. Think of it as a series of modules, each available to plug into the day as they’re developed, adjusted to suit the family and, finally, perfected.
- Rising: The morning routine sets the tone for the whole day. Start with a good night’s sleep, and set the alarm for the same time every day, so the body develops its sleep rhythms. Get up early enough for exercise and even a bit of fun, like playing with the dog. Five minutes to meditate or write in a gratitude journal can keep your child calm, focused and ready to take on the day.
- Eating breakfast: Start your day with a healthy breakfast, and everything else falls into place. Children who eat a healthy breakfast get better grades, have healthier weights and are more successful in their social lives. Make sure that the breakfast bowl offers balanced nutrition — perhaps proteins and fruits, instead of sugary cereal. Giving your child two choices — and no more — sets the tone that routine starts here. And, when breakfast is done, teach your child to clean up the dishes, establishing a routine that keeps clutter from clogging up the day.
- Exercise and play: Routine is not the same as drudgery. Kids were put on this earth to play and, sometimes, just relax. Time in the day to play and get the activity they need gives kids something to look forward to and rejuvenates them for whatever comes next. It also makes sure that activity and play aren’t squeezed out in favor of classwork and chores.
- Classes: The typical school routine offers the advantage of predictability. If your child will be taking live, synchronous lessons, you know what time they need to be at the computer. Build in a few minutes before each class to prepare, allowing time for your child to think of questions, make sure all the materials needed are at hand, and settle in before the teacher calls class to order. Even students who take asynchronous classes benefit from routine — perhaps studying in the car on the way to tournaments, or choosing the same time every day to catch up on lessons missed due to dance class.
- Eating lunch: Just like breakfast, lunch should not be an afterthought. Meals should be healthy and prepared with some advance thought. Lunch at the same time every day helps keep hungry tummies from rumbling and distracting your child from schoolwork.
- Studying: School assignments and studying deserve their own time slot in every family routine. A designated time signals to your child that studying takes priority. Make sure your child has a comfortable, quiet space, free from distractions such as blaring televisions and pinging cellphones.
- Reading: Experts agree that 10 to 30 minutes of reading every day, depending on age, exposes children to millions of words and helps build and sustain the critical comprehension skills for school success. Parents of bookworms won’t have any trouble putting a 30-minute reading session into the daily routine. For children who struggle to read, start with just a few minutes and build up to 30. Pick topics or reading materials they enjoy — worthwhile reading is not just in the form of novels. With your child’s input, create a reading nook. Stick to routine, and don’t let anything interfere with reading time, setting expectations that turn into habits.
- Eating dinner: Every day, families scatter. Family time takes second place to work, school, friends and activities. Family dinners might seem like a quaint notion, but research shows that they improve children’s academic performance and self-esteem, while promoting family coherence and communication. Family dinner gives everyone a chance to contribute to family decisions — where should we vacation next year? — and creates responsibilities such as setting the table and cleaning the kitchen that children learn to accept as their own.
- Cleaning your room: In Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout simply would not take the garbage out, “though her daddy would scream and shout.” Assign your child a few minutes to straighten the room every day, and you cut down on the battles over clearing mountains of clutter (and keep them from meeting Sarah’s “awful fate that I cannot now relate”).
- Shower/bath: It’s entirely possible that your child doesn’t need a shower or bath every day, but every routine needs regular times for a thorough scrubbing.
- Brushing your teeth: Regular routines offer prime opportunities for reinforcing good habits that will last a lifetime. Your child’s all-important oral health begins with regular teeth brushing. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day, for two minutes each time. Two minutes is a long time for young children to stay focused on anything, so start them off by holding a “tooth-brushing dance party,” or read a two-minute story.
- Getting ready for the next day: What to wear? What to eat? What to study? Those moments of indecision every morning eat away at precious minutes. Add steps in the evening routine to prepare the next day’s breakfast and lunch, pick an outfit and make a study plan.
- Sleeping: In a routine-oriented world, bedtime amounts to more than just flopping into bed when eyes are drooping. Routines that ease children into bed at the same time every night help them sleep more soundly. Take no more than 30 minutes to brush teeth, change into PJs, read a story and say goodnight to the teddy bear. Even older children need bedtime routines, including a time when electronic devices are turned off — and stay off.
Once a routine is established, don’t be afraid to shake it up. Children will need less supervision as they grow, and their interests and activities will consume more and more of their time. Stick to all those good reasons for daily consistency in the first place, and routines can grow and change as your child does the same.
One of the best things about cyber school is its flexibility. CCA families craft the school experience to suit their families’ lifestyles and interests. They don’t have to bend to meet arbitrary schedules imposed by brick-and-mortar schools. Daily routines help families take care of their responsibilities while they strive for bigger goals. Contact CCA for help creating a routine for your child that paves the way for school and lifetime success.