We are proud to be partnering with In The City Camp and Jumpspark Atlanta, on Pandemic Parenting, a new support group for parents during this turbulent time. On Friday mornings, parents are joined by JF&CS clinicians who share helpful tips and tools for parents to implement. Last week, Jaime Stepansky joined us to discuss the benefits and challenges of implementing routines and structures and shared some tips and tools for creating ones that match the unique style and needs of your family.
With all the uncertainty in the world today, it can be incredibly challenging for parents to maintain routine and structure at home. Many of us are working from home and juggling responsibilities, so our daily routines probably look at lot different than they did a few months ago. Jaime emphasizes that parents should not feel guilty about this and should instead focus their energy on implementing routines that are doable for their families. Studies have consistently shown that routine is important for both children and adults: improving family functioning, sleep habits, and even resilience during times of crisis.
During this uncertain time, routines are more important than ever before. Jaime explains that routines and structures build and enhance predictability, provide a sense of normalcy, and reduce our stress levels. They also help build our self-regulation skills, which can be thought of as our feelings, energy level, and ability to send and receive information. Our ability to regulate varies greatly depending on the context. For instance, you’re much more equipped to mediate an argument when you’re relaxing at home than when you’re sitting in rush hour traffic with your kids fighting in the backseat. By implementing routines, you can improve your self-regulation skills as well as help your children develop their own. In times of uncertainty and discomfort, we depend on routine and structure more than ever to regulate. So, if you notice yourself feeling heightened levels of anxiety, uncertainty, and confusion, Jaime suggests trying to implement as much routine and structure into your daily life as possible.
Tips + Tricks
Jamie swears by star charts as a way to provide a flexible structure for kids. She suggests incorporating academic, physical, and mental health needs, like reading for 30 minutes a day, exercising, meditating, or calling a friend. Start small and then gradually increase the goals as kids start to meet them consistently. She recommends getting the whole family involved and making a game out of who can get the most stars, incentivizing kids with a small treat or movie night. This is a great opportunity to talk to your child about things you would like to see them do and what they want to work on personally. Jaime also advises implementing a household schedule that sets expectations, boundaries, and helps create consistency. During quarantine, it’s ok to make it looser; Jaime suggests making a menu of activities for the day, like reading 10 pages for summer reading or having dinner together.
Emotional check in’s can also be a great way to create a routine for your family. Ask kids what their highs and lows were for the day and get creative! Kids can add something silly or fun that they did. Try these at dinner or at a consistent time each day (car rides, bedtime, whatever works for your family). Jaime recommends creating designated family time, like making dinner together, watching a movie, or playing a board game, to help stick to a schedule during this time. Setting limits on electronic use can also help parents create boundaries in this chaotic boundary-less time. Most importantly, she emphasizes that we need to be kind to ourselves. We’re all learning and making mistakes, so it’s ok to cut ourselves some slack. It’s never too late to start implementing a routine or structure at home, and Jaime suggests celebrating victories with your kids, no matter how small.
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