Children need routines that are predictable, regular and consistent. Fear of the unknown is a common stressor in young children. The need for consistent routines in divorced families especially important for children of divorce.
Consistency establishes security and reduces anxiety in children. However, consistency is often lacking in divorced homes, even though it is so desperately needed.
That’s why it’s important for parents to set aside differences when it comes to establishing a consistent routine across households for the sake of your children’s health.
The Benefits of a Consistent Routines in Divorced Families
1. Routines establish security
A predictable routine, first and foremost, establishes security. Kids lack confidence when they face the unknown. Following a consistent routine gives them the ability to develop a sense of mastery that is strengthened over time. Rather being told what to do, they will learn what they are supposed to do and take pride in doing their task independently. Although change is unavoidable, the confidence developed through a consistent routine will serve as the foundation for coping with transitional periods down the road.
2. Routines reduce stress
The opposite of security is fear— a common stressor for children.
Prolonged stress in children can slow both brain development and physical development. In fact, chronic stress can sometimes prohibit the regions of the brain responsible for emotional control and rational decision-making from fully developing.
Because their frontal lobes are not fully developed, children cannot rationally respond to stress at their age. Your child may be under stress if they are anxious, have poor impulse control, lack empathy, or struggle to problem-solve.
Consistency helps alleviate stress by establishing a sense of security.
3. Routines develop good habits and teach boundaries
Structure in the home develops healthy habits.
That’s because routines teach children there are consequences when rules are not followed. Rather than entering into a battle over bath time each night, establishing a routine teaches your child what is expected of them when. They will begin to expect and complete certain activities without conflict.
Not to mention, sticking to a routine will teach them self-discipline and how to manage their time.
Important Routines to Consider
When it comes to establishing consistent routines at home, consider morning routines, after-school routines, and bedtime routines.
Establishing a bedtime routine is the most important of all because keeping a consistent bedtime is critical for your child’s overall health and well-being. Sleep is where they experience growth, process memories and problem solve. It’s important you protect this time by keeping things consistent and free of disruption.
One study found instituting a consistent nightly bedtime routine helps children fall asleep faster, go back to sleep more easily, and improves parents’ moods to boot.
Establishing a consistent bedtime across two households goes far beyond setting a bedtime. Rather, consider the routine of taking a bath, brushing teeth and putting on pajamas. Do you read one book or two? How long should you lay in bed with your child before you leave, even if they ask you to stay? Is their mattress at each home similar enough that they feel like they are in a familiar place even though it’s different? All of these things are important for consistent sleep.
How to Establish Consistent Routines with Your Partner
Although it can be tough to establish a consistent routine across two households, it can be done. With all the changes that come with a separation, the consistency you incorporate into the situation will help your kids to feel safe and know what to expect.
Sit down with your partner and discuss these things when it comes to deciding on a routine:
- What is our stance on this?
- What are the consequences for not complying with rules?
- What are the rewards for good behaviour?
- Should we be flexible or steadfast on this issue?
- How can we communicate our rules about these matters to our kids ahead of time?
- Is one parent in particular responsible for dealing with this issue?
- What are some possible problems/downfalls with our approach?
- What are the benefits of our approach?
Home is the easiest place to develop long-term behaviours and understand the concepts of consequences, boundaries and rewards. Do your best to keep ritual and routine in place wherever and whenever you can, so that in the midst of transition your kids still feel safe and secure.
Lisa is freelance writer from Raleigh, NC. Having grown up with divorced parents, she is passionate about writing on the topic of the importance of stability in divorced homes.
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