Maintaining Routines – Tips On Supporting Your Child’s Wellbeing During COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have had their lives turned upside down. A change in routine is hard enough for adults, but it’s even more difficult for young children to adapt to disruptions. The world of a young child is very small. Their focus is on their home, their preschool or childcare, and the little pieces of their communities they get to see. Because they are unaware of the ways current events affect them, families are able to control how much disruption children experience and maintain routines as much as possible.
Three Components For Creating Structure In A Child’s Life
There are three main components to creating structure in a child’s life: consistency, predictability, and follow-through. It might feel like consistency is impossible right now, but there are plenty of things families can control in the lives of young children.
The good news? Creating structure and consistency doesn’t have to be hard.
Often, it’s as simple as recognizing the routines you’re already following in your home and making intentional choices to ensure they remain ongoing. Here are some ways families can maintain a routine when faced with uncertainty.
Consistency, Predictability, and Following Through
Families can still be consistent in their expectations and reactions to children. Children should expect the consequences of their behaviors will be the same every time. Remember to continue praising children when they engage in positive behaviors. It’s also important for adults to respond the same way every time to unwanted behaviors.
Predictability may seem like a thing of the past, but remember that young children don’t have a good sense of time. They may not realize that things are constantly changing, or that we have been in quarantine for months. Even if families cannot predict what their daily lives will be like from week to week, they can wake up every morning and tell their child what they can expect.
Follow-through is another important component in creating structure and routine in a child’s life. During this time of uncertainty, try not to make promises about upcoming events or holidays. Because we don’t know if these types of gatherings will occur, it’s best to make plans without including the children. That way, if things fall through, the children will not need to readjust their expectations.
Set Basic Expectations
When everyday routines are no longer relevant, it can be easy to slip into an “anything goes” mindset. While flexibility and rest are important during stressful periods, it’s also helpful to set some basic daily expectations for your family. These expectations can give structure to the day, even if you aren’t leaving the house.
Start with hygiene: children should get dressed in clean clothes every day. Getting dressed sets the tone for the day. Brush children’s hair and don’t forget to brush their teeth in the morning and night! It can be hard to remember to brush teeth when you aren’t leaving the house, so set a reminder on your phone if necessary.
From there, create some daily rituals your children can participate in. Household chores give young children a sense of accomplishment. Little kids love to feel big, so don’t be afraid to give them tasks to help you with throughout the day.
Another way to create stability in the household is by having a meal together as a family. Try to sit down to eat whenever possible. Because meals happen at predictable times, spending them together can help children feel secure.
Make Bedtime Sacred
Creating a bedtime routine and sticking to it is important under normal circumstances. It becomes even more critical during difficult times.
Sleep is paramount for young children’s development. Children who get the recommended amount of sleep are less likely to experience developmental delays in motor function, language, and social function. Early bedtimes are better for young children, so consider making bedtime between 7 and 8 p.m.
A predictable bedtime routine can help children fall asleep faster and have fewer wake-ups during the night. A bedtime routine that includes a warm bath, cozy pajamas, snuggles, and a story with a loved one gives children a sense of security. That emotional wellbeing helps them have a good night’s sleep.
One added bonus: parents gain their evenings back. If children are in bed by 8 p.m., that gives adults a few hours of peace and quiet. During uncertain times, those few hours can go along way toward decreasing stress and anxiety.
Keep Things Simple
Local shut-downs and coronavirus-related orders have taken a lot of things out of our control. Regular family activities may be off-limits. There are still plenty of family outings that can be done safely and socially distanced.
Young children don’t need all the bells and whistles of Disneyworld or a children’s museum in order to have fun. Try adding some of these activities into your family’s week. If possible, keep things consistent week to week: take-out on Fridays and family hiking on Sundays.
- Go for a walk in your neighborhood.
- Explore a hiking trail together.
- Order take-out from your favorite restaurant and eat it at home.
- Enjoy an episode of your child’s favorite television show together
- Cook or bake something delicious
It’s ok to do less during this time. Not everyday needs to be filled with elaborate experiences. Instead, consider taking this time to enjoy your family and slow down.
Beyond the basic daily tasks you’ve set for the household, let go of any expectations of productivity. Allow children to play with a leisurely pace. Spend extra time on the simple things throughout the day, going at a child’s pace.
Slowing down is a form of mindfulness. Children engage in mindfulness without even trying. They examine things closely, notice little details, and wonder about things adults take for granted. Take the time to experience your daily activities, and be present in the moment.