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The Strength of Routines

Do you have a morning routine for getting up and ready for school/work (even if it is a stay-at-home job during COVID)? Do you have a bedtime routine? If you have school-aged children, do you have a routine for getting them up and ready for school (even if it is virtually during COVID)? For most people, routines play a part in at least a portion of their day. Why is this, and is it really worth talking about? The answer to both is yes!

Establishing and following routines allow for repetitive tasks or activities to proceed with less effort and thought. This means we can accomplish things faster and more effectively, with less likelihood of forgetting something. For example, let’s say your dentist tells you that you should start flossing your teeth once a day. How are you going to remember to do it? Make it part of your bedtime routine. At first, because it is something new for you, you will have to put a lot of effort into remembering to do it. However, if you keep it in the same order of bedtime tasks (e.g., immediately after brushing your teeth) flossing will become more automatic for you. Less energy will be required to remember to floss, and you will be less likely to forget about it because it will be a natural part of your routine.

The same argument holds true for the importance of establishing—and following through with—school routines. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, establishing routines also helps with creating expectations for your child, which will reduce power struggles and foster independence in your child.[1] Anxiety and stress will then be minimized for all involved.

Help your child establish a morning routine of getting dressed, eating breakfast, taking medications/vitamins, brushing teeth, collecting backpack (with homework in it), and grabbing her lunch bag. This will help your child feel organized for the school day, and less of your time will have to be spent nagging your child to brush her teeth, collect his homework, grab his lunch, etc. If the routine is followed every school day, all of these tasks will become more automatic, with less thought being required for each one. Similarly, when your child returns from school, she should have some sort of a routine for eating a snack and completing homework. For some children, it may be helpful to write out these routines and hang them on the refrigerator or other focal point for easy reference. For children who are not yet reading, include pictures for each task.

If your child is going to school virtually, routines are equally important. Be sure to create and post the daily schedule of activities (see an example on my website,, under Samples-Learning Activities), including any changes for a particular day. This will allow your child to know what to expect to happen from one part of the school day to the next, which will help to alleviate stress due to the unknown. Having a regular schedule also allows for smoother transitions between activities because they are anticipated.

Whether you’re an adult or child, routines are very beneficial to our everyday lives. They allow for repetitive tasks or activities to proceed with more ease and less thought and will reduce the likelihood of forgetting something. For children, routines can also help to establish expectations, reduce power struggles, and create independence. Start honing your routine-building skills today!


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