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Written by Tracy Trumper   

School is out but routine is still in

Kids never thought they would make it to summer, and parents were thinking the same, maybe.

As a parent, you are relieved to not have the morning rush to get breakfast, dress appropriately for the day, make sure everyone has their school materials, prepare that favorite lunch, do hair, brush teeth, so on and so on.

Even though parents and children are ready for a break from the school rush, the routines many parents create during the school year are very important for a child’s development, health and mental well-being. Creating a family summer routine will continue to foster the benefits that routines have for children and adolescents.

Daily routines are a way of teaching younger children healthy habits, like brushing their teeth, and washing their hands before a meal. Children and young people tend to feel safer when they live in an organized and predictable environment. Having a routine of house chores helps children and adolescents develop a sense of responsibility.

Time management and basic work skills are instilled as a result of routines in the home. In adolescence, regular home routines help children “feel looked after” and can relieve the stress of changes they are experiencing.

Routines have health benefits too. Children in families with regular routines have fewer respiratory infections than those in routine-free homes. This is probably due to the healthy habits children have learned. In addition, our body clocks are set by daily routines. Staying with a bedtime routine helps young people’s bodies know when to sleep.

Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy body, brain function, maintaining the immune system and for improving energy levels, learning and concentration. Children, ages 12-15, need an average of 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night to function at their best.

Studies have shown 90 percent of children do not get the recommended amount of sleep on most school nights. Another recent study of over 15,000 students found that those who went to bed after midnight had a 24 percent higher risk of depression, compared to those who went to bed before 10 p.m. The study also found that adolescents who slept five hours or fewer were 71 percent more likely to suffer depression. In addition, if kids are tired they are not going to be as active. Making activity part of normal day activity is going to prepare them into adulthood to prevent weight gain and other debilitating diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

So, disease prevention and good mental health is not just a nine month project for our children when they are in school. Continue to have children rise about the same time in the morning and go to bed around the same time. This will keep their body clock on track, allowing them to be less moody, have less behavioral issues and allow them to enjoy more summer activities.

In adolescents and teens this may mean monitoring their computer time, phone time and electronic game time—especially in the middle of the night. Maybe have a daily schedule written down with time for play, reading, watching TV and working or chores.

Older children can be asked to be a part of scheduling. This will allow them to see there are expectations or guidelines for their day, but that they have some autonomy and responsibility as well.

Remember to be a part of your child’s routine. Routines built around fun or spending time together strengthen relationships between parents and younger children. This time will then continue to support those relationships later in the adolescent and teen years.

Here is a list of routines for all ages to share in:

—preparing and eating meals together.

—physical activity—walking the dog or going for a bike ride.

—family days (family activities).

—family DVD nights.

—family meetings.

—taking turns talking about the day.

—special one-to-one time with a parent.

—regular contact with extended family and friends.

—family chore time.

—saying prayers or observing religious events.

—hobbies or sport.

Some routine is helpful for all families. It helps you get through the things that need to be done in each day and can also build your family bonds. A good routine caters for the needs of all family members.


Holyoke Enterprise June 2, 2011