The Importance of Family Routines
In January of 2020 when there were hints of the onset of the pandemic, no one could have imagined what was to come that spring. Unlike any period in our lives prior to this, have we encountered a time when “locked down” was a phrase used among all of us. And while we all thought that the symptoms of the pandemic would subside, allowing us to venture out to our “normal” lives once again, almost two years later we are still waiting for that magical moment when “it” is over.
Now is a good time to take stock of how we have spent our time. For our children, especially our youngest, they have not experienced life without the presence of the pandemic. And for our oldest students, it has meant a time to learn great restraint in order to keep everyone in our households, classrooms, and activities safe. So, as we approach the second anniversary of the pandemic (may this not become a yearly thing!), we should consider some ways we can provide stability for our students. Understandably, everyone must build a structure that provides a sense of security and strength that permits order in each family. That can look different for every family based on where we live, how we live, the number of individuals under one roof, the age of those in our households, and what we feel is a safe way of living.
After reading numerous articles about families and the impact the pandemic has had on the dynamics among members, one common theme kept recurring; routines provide positive stability. All families have routines that span from everyone rising in the morning until everyone retiring at night. Families might have routines around eating, exercise, together time, and alone time. With the advent of the pandemic there has been a loss in family routines. Or, in some instances, while old routines disappeared with the arrival of the pandemic, they were replaced with new ones.
According to Lisa Rapaport and Danielle Murphy, many families have struggled with the changes, including a significant rise in mental health issues. Less than twelve months ago, the American Psychological Association reported that nearly fifty percent of all parents had declining mental health. Over sixty percent of parents were concerned about the amount of time their children spent in front of a screen. And finally, approximately fifty percent of parents have been concerned with their children’s stress levels, rising anxiety, inactivity, and unhealthy eating habits.
Despite what appears to be an endless list of negative outcomes, positive changes have occurred. Families have become reflective of their situations, causing them to reevaluate their priorities. For instance, families are enjoying more time outside together versus sitting inside, not speaking, in front of a television screen. They are in the kitchen cooking together, working on family projects together and spending more recreational time together. This demonstrates that families are adapting and establishing new routines to the betterment of all members.
I thought I would share some positive routines that families might want to consider including in their daily activities. These all have positive outcomes, and they can make a substantial difference in everyone’s day-to-day activities. They include:
- Splitting parenting duties more evenly
In many families, working from home has allowed parents to see and spend more time with their children. As work and household responsibilities have become "closer," some children see their caregivers with greater frequency. When possible, the adults in a family should trade off time with the children so that everyone can have a break.
- Meeting neighbors
Prior to the pandemic, many families were constantly on the go. Meeting their neighbors may have been more difficult when everyone was frequently out and about. The pandemic, especially during the initial stages when everyone was home, allowed families to step outside and meet their neighbors, deepening ties to their neighborhoods.
- Family meal planning and prep
Prior to the pandemic, food prep frequently fell on a single adult in the home. Once families were confined to their homes, family meal prep was an opportunity to socialize while making a product. As many might recall, it was impossible to find yeast to make bread or a pasta maker to make pasta. Involve your children in the process, from selecting menus to making the food. Children are learning a valuable skill and they are having a positive time with the adults in the home.
- Spending less time on their screens and more time reading books
Families have had the time to enjoy books, whether reading as a family or reading individually. Families made goals about the number of books they could read, or the type of books they selected. Most importantly, children had the opportunity to observe their parents reading—setting an excellent example.
- Self-care routines
The importance of parents feeling good is as important as spending time with your children. Making sure parents take time to exercise or do something for themselves is enriching and allows parents to refresh, so that any challenges that come along are easier to manage. Having your children be a part of the exercise is an additional benefit. Try a yoga class or go for a run. Both parents and children will enjoy the time together and foster stronger relationships.
Dr. Angelica Robles, a pediatrician out of North Carolina, suggests that “We don’t have to pressure ourselves as parents to be perfect at doing it all. We need to prioritize”. We need to set realistic goals as adults and ensure there are routines in place for our children. For the time being, we are in the new normal. Until the pandemic subsides, we want to make the most of our time with our children. They might not understand all the nuances of our routines, but they will certainly benefit from them.
Until next time…
B.J. Cataldo, Ed.D.