Now more than ever, structure is key to keeping balance in the home and maintaining mental health for yourself and your child. With all of the unknowns, I recommend parents alter and relax some parenting standards. For example, allowing your child screen time a little longer than you normally would or staying up a little later is okay. However, children crave and are used to structure. When they do not have structure, things not only feel chaotic on the outside, but your child also feels overwhelmed and loses control internally. Think about it: all school-age children are already used to structure at school. Newborns who don’t know rules and come to the world completely moldable quickly fit into the flow of the rules, structure, and culture of the home environment. Even teens benefit from this system, though some of them think otherwise and resist it. Keeping structure and routines allows children of all ages to have some predictability amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. And these daily practices ought to remain flexible, so it allows for anything that may come up with you or your child.
During the pandemic, it’s easy to change up or become lax about the rules with so many unknowns, but at this time, it’s vital that you maintain the structure. Keeping set routines creates a sense of order and therefore promotes calmness in the home during these unprecedented and uncertain times. Routines may not be the same as they were pre-pandemic, but an altered version of them or an established new schedule will go a long way in maintaining balance within the home and with each person internally.
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Some of my structure and routine recommendations include:
- Keeping a morning routine like getting dressed, eating breakfast, and transitioning into face-to-face, hybrid or remote school
- Continuing with regular time for lunch, including some downtime to take a mental break from schoolwork. This is especially important for remote school days, as mental fatigue from a lot of screen use occurs.
- Expecting your child to keep up with typical habits like chores, exercise or regular physical movement, social interactions that can be face-to-face with social distancing precautions or virtual with friends and family
- Completing school and homework by a particular time with regular brain breaks to reduce fatigue
- Allowing fun and/or free playtime. Many children love playing video games, but with the increase in screen time use for school, you may want to recommend more non-screen time activities.
- Nightly family time or reading before bed to slow down the nervous system and allow the body to naturally start to rest
- Keeping nighttime routines including discontinuing screen time use by a certain time (about 2 hours) before going to bed, having your family turn off and turn in electronic devices at night to reduce the effects of blue light, taking a warm shower, brushing their teeth before bed, and keeping a regular bedtime
- Diffusing calming essential oils (i.e., lavender, chamomile, bergamot), listening to classical music, and/or doing deep breathing techniques are nighttime habits you may also want to incorporate to promote quality sleep
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