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The Importance for Children of Rules and Routines

After the excitement of back-to-school preparations, most school age children will now have begun the new academic school year.

One of the ways that parents can help their children’s smooth transition into the new academic year and, indeed, all aspects of school and home life is to establish regular routines for their children to follow.

Educational research has shown that whilst it is commonly known that routines are important for children, they are also vital in supporting all aspects of their learning at all ages. It has been proven that established routines both underpin healthy social and emotional development and allow for optimum learning and growth to take place.

It can be daunting when considering routines to put in place for your family, and many parents fear that a strict inflexible schedule will not fit into their lifestyle. However, on reflection, you probably have routines already in place that you and your family adhere to. By routines I mean having in place a set of regular patterns that are predictable to your children and allows them to take part in the routine. For example, when at school children of all ages can predict what is going to happen by being familiar with their timetable, even the youngest children soon realise what days that P.E is on, and what happens after lunch on a Friday! The predictability of the school schedule enables children to feel secure and in control of their school day, thereby, allowing them to be able to concentrate on learning.

After a long summer break, it is important that routines are re-established at home so that children feel comfortable, at ease and prepared for the learning ahead.

There are several routines that research shows are extremely beneficial to children’s mental health and wellbeing, notably at both dinner time and bedtime.

  • Set evening dinner time routines, especially during the week:

When the whole family can interact together, it allows children to feel centred for the whole day. Children subconsciously know that there will be an opportunity to unite with their family, talk, interact, and, of course, take part in preparing for the meal by setting the table, helping to prepare healthy food, learning about its importance and by helping to clear the table at the end of the meal.

Eating together allows children to feel secure and valued. It is also an opportunity, after a busy day, for families to communicate, talk through the day’s highlights and lowlights and to make plans for the next day and week ahead.

It is a time when parents can learn if something is worrying or concerning their children in a relaxed and routine environment. Children are much more likely to open up and talk about any problems or concerns when they are feeling at ease. It is not just about the eating of food. It is an opportunity for focused quality time.

Research shows that established eating routines enables children of all ages to feel secure and anchored to their families throughout the day. It enables children in challenging situations that occur in daily life to always know that they are not alone and that they are supported and secure.

  • Routine observed bedtimes.

Probably the most important routine to establish for children from toddlers to teenagers is good sleep patterns which are crucial in children’s development. It has been proven through numerous studies that children who have an established and regular sleep time and routine have improved attention, memory, behaviour, mental and physical health, and ability to learn.

It is well documented that children and teenagers show benefits in terms of academic achievement when they have a consistent bedtime routine and sleep pattern – going to bed at the same time each day and waking up at the same time.

All family’s bedtime routines are unique to them and can involve taking a shower, listening to a story read by a parent or as age-appropriate reading to themselves.

What is important is that bedtime is at the same time each night, electronics are discarded at least 30 minutes before bedtime and children have a comfortable darkened room to fall asleep in.

It is worth noting that school aged children should be getting between 9 and 11 hours sleep a night. Time in the daily routine needs to be taken into consideration to allow for this to be regular and consistent.

Inevitably, there will be additional routines that fall into your family’s week, such as going out for pizza as a family on a Friday night, walking the dog before school or other extra-curricular activities. Of course, no two families will have the same after school routine as this depends on parental working schedules, number of children and their ages etc.

What is important is that all children feel secure in themselves. Research has shown that establishing just these two routines goes a long way to enabling children to feel rested, in control, secure and mentally and physically able to cope with the challenges and tribulations that school life can often pose. Routine provides them with the structure to allow for optimum learning.

 The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine!

By Penelope Best,
International Education Consultant