When Life is Chaotic: How to Create a Reassuring Daily Rhythm for Children
by Kate Saffle
A year ago
“In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime...Saturday morning pancakes.” --Kim John Payne in Simplicity Parenting
What would it look like to have perfectly calm days with a predictable daily routine? Well, for more families, it would look fairly far from reality. So many families today are juggling multiple jobs, businesses, flex work, ill family members, extracurriculars, volunteer work, and other responsibilities that make completing the daily schedule feel like an Olympic sport. We know that we want a simpler life paired down to the essentials, but what if that isn’t possible right now?
Children crave steady and reliable days, and although it may not be possible to leave plenty of white space on your calendar right now, there are measures that increase predictability. By focusing on a few key moments throughout the day, the exercise of previewing, creating pauses, and family dinners, you can instill a sense of reliable routine into your weekly schedule. As a parent, you have the opportunity to take the reins in your home and create pockets of peacefulness, even if you’re living through a season of busy. Let’s work through these together; I promise it’s worth it.
Transitional Moments |
The first place to start to create a reassuring daily rhythm for your kiddos are the transitional moments of morning wake-up/off-to-school, dinner time, and the bedtime routine. These may also be the trickiest parts of your day, whether that’s struggling to get your two year old to brush teeth, convincing children that it really IS time to head out the door before they’re late to school, or the after dinner rush to read stories, take baths, and get in bed. Fine-tuning each of these transitional moments will relieve you of some of the pressure of a busy schedule as well as create consistency for the child.
Children best remember what needs to be done if it’s tied to another activity, so it’s helpful to keep the steps in the same order. In my household, our morning routine order looks exactly the same every day: wake-up, make beds, get dressed, eat breakfast, and brush teeth. Even a young child will remember the order if it consistently stays the same and is reinforced. You may need to be present through every single step for awhile until the habit is in place. Once you create consistency around these points of the day, your child will feel more grounded in the daily routine.
The next way to introduce rhythm during a season of busy is to use the exercise of previewing. It can be very overwhelming for young children to have no idea what’s coming next. Any parent that’s tried to drag a happily playing child off of the playground without having given a warning first knows what comes next. Children thrive on predictability and awareness of what’s happening in their world. The way to create a sense of knowing for the young child is to start practicing previewing daily. Each night at bedtime, take a few minutes to share with your child what to expect the next day. It’s helpful if you include imagery so that the child can visualize what their day will look like. For example, I may tell my five year old that “when I pick you up from school, I’ll be driving the white truck and Nana will be with me. Then we’ll all head to the ice cream shop, and you can choose two flavors, so think of what you want.” This exercise is crucially important if your days are not consistently the same as it creates a road map for the child of what to expect so that they feel included and considered.
Creating Pauses |
Another way to create consistency for children is through the artful use of pauses throughout the day. So often we rush through the daily tasks, prodding our children to complete the checklist. Although it is necessary to make sure the children get dressed, brush teeth, or complete their homework, these busier periods don’t often create opportunities for connection. Instead, look for the quiet pauses in-between as these are the moments to listen for their little voices, to offer hugs, and to be a place of rest. It’s so tempting to see a small block of free time and want to fill it, but I encourage you to resist the urge. Instead, be present and open to whatever your child needs in that moment. Overall, your day may be chaotic and busy, but in that moment you can be an island of rest and calm for your little one.
Family Dinner |
Finally, one of the best ways to create consistency in a busy family schedule is to prioritize eating dinner together as a family. This may be the only time during the day that everyone is together, and it creates a glue that binds the family together. It’s an opportunity for little ones to help set the table, to share the day’s stories, and to work on table manners. You may consider adding a blessing to the meal or have everyone say one thing they’re grateful for that day. Root the ritual in your values and practice it consistently. Whether it’s around your table in your home, on a blanket in a park before someone’s soccer game, or in a restaurant, creating a ritual around dinner time will add beautiful predictability and connection to your child’s life.
All families experience seasons of busy, and it is by anchoring your days in thoughtfully crafted rituals that children can find a sense of predictability and calm.
Which of these daily rituals have you incorporated into your home?