Adapting to the new reality of at-home education and work can be difficult for the whole family. Children may have an especially difficult time adjusting to new changes. If your child has trouble following a regular schedule or has meltdowns when asked to switch from one activity to another, consistency and routines may provide a way to structure your day. If your child has consistent routines, but is having difficulty managing their time and current workload, they may want to consider taking the next step and scheduling certain tasks within their routine.
Consistency and predictability are extremely important during times of change. Although some things may be out of our control, kids feel better when they know what to expect in their environment. Consistency means that you respond to behavior the same way every time and that your expectations don’t change based on where you are or your mood. For example, if your child is expected to complete their morning work in order to have 30 minutes of screen time. They only get the screen time if they have completed their morning work, and if they complete their work, then they always get the screen time. Enforcing the consequence for negative and positive behaviors consistently is called follow-through. Consistency, predictability, and follow-through make it easier for children because they make children feel safe. It is also less stressful for parents because they can respond the same way each time by setting up if/then statements for behaviors and rewards/consequences. Often implementing structure means that the day follows a certain pattern or routine. There also may be routines during important times of day such as bedtime or mealtime that help everyone understand what to do and when. Here are some additional tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to build structure and create family rules to help children feel safe at home even with the outside world is chaotic.
Creating a Home Routine
Routines will probably look different than they did when kids were in school, and that’s expected. The most important thing to remember is that routines need to be consistent. It is important that outside time and exercise, meal times, and quiet time are included in the daily schedule. Kids still need ample time (2-3 times a day) to go outside, play, ride a bike, or take a family walk. They also need to continue to eat three healthy meals instead of giving in to the temptation to eat all day. In addition, everyone benefits from some quiet time to read, rest, or practice mindfulness activities like yoga or meditation. It’s also a good idea to have time each day for kids to connect with relatives or friends on video conferencing apps like Facetime or Google Duo. Although some time should be scheduled to get necessary tasks accomplished, there is also value in providing kids of all ages with some unstructured free time. Part of the potential positive of this time is that we may learn how to shape a life and daily routine that has a little more room to rest and breathe than before the quarantine. Think about when you need to work as a parent, and plan activities during those times that kids can do independently.
Schedules You Can Stick To
A plan is easier to stick to when you have it mapped out. A visual schedule or plan with color-coded activities located in specific blocks of time can be especially helpful to students who have trouble focusing including students with ADHD. The schedule that a student creates will be based on the routines they have in place and the items in their to-do list.
Decide on Priorities
Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” Children will have more clarity about what to include in their daily schedule if parents guide them in learning how to prioritize the tasks that they are presented with. Students can sort through these priorities by putting their tasks on sticky notes and arranging them in the Eisenhower Matrix or drawing an Eisenhower Matrix and placing their tasks in the appropriate box.
This tracks our process of getting a task completed. It can mean that the to-do list for the day is written on flashcards or sticky notes that can be moved from the incomplete to the complete pile or category once accomplished. Older students, or students who have difficulty keeping track of papers may enjoy using a program like Trello that will allow them to do this same activity online. Students should always start with the most challenging, unpleasant, or urgent tasks and save easier tasks for less focused times in the afternoon. For kids who have trouble sustaining the momentum needed to get their work done consider using things they enjoy like screen time or time outside as a break that they earn after completing a few academic tasks.
If they have not already, students should make a to-do list for the day and estimate how long each task will take. Then, they can use an hourly planner and markers or a whiteboard divided with time for each hour and colored sticky notes to visually schedule each task from their to-do list in a block of time. They may have routines in place, such as: “If it’s 9:30 then I work on English for an hour.” When creating a schedule, they would schedule specific daily English tasks within that time period. It is helpful visually to use a different color for each task. Students can streamline this daily process and share their schedule with other family members by using an online calendar like the Google Calendar. This also allows them to see their tasks no matter where they are or easily break up or repeat recurring or extended tasks.
We would love to hear what strategies you use to schedule your time and what routines are working for your family. Please leave your questions and comments below. Tune in next week for our free weekly Wednesday webinar. The topic next week will be staying focused during academic tasks.
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Nina Parrish, M. Ed.
Co-Owner and Director of Education
Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.
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