Why Maintaining A Stay At Home Routine Is Important

Keep your family on track by staying organized during the quarantine.

Guest Blogger Connie Harrison, Parenting Specialist Beech Acres Parenting Center

We have all been reading online and watching tv for information about how to cope with the new reality of staying at home. Much of this information includes the idea that we should have a schedule at home for both parents and children, but no one has said why we should do this. For some of us, the “why” is very important. There are several reasons why structure helps us all.

The first reason we humans like some structure is that the brain is a pattern-seeking organ. A routine or schedule is a pattern the brain recognizes and appreciates. One pattern the brain controls is our sleep/wake cycle, and how it is influenced by light. Think of how we struggled to make the change to Daylight Saving Time. That is an example of a routine or pattern that our brains recognize, and need time to change. Setting up a schedule or routine at home allows the brain to move to a new pattern.

For children, one of the important reasons to have a schedule is that it makes the day more predictable. The ability to predict what comes next helps us to ease anxiety. Right now our news is full of information about what is still unpredictable about the virus and the response of society to it. We have the ability to insert some predictability and a measure of control over our immediate environment at home. That feeling of control helps adults as well as children to function effectively while the outside world is not in our control at all. Children are most impacted by what is going on inside of our families, so a family schedule is very important for them.

You can add to that sense of security by getting some input from them on the schedule. Adults set up the basic structure of what time the workday begins and ends, when meals are planned, and how parental responsibilities shape the day. Within that external framework, children can help decide if they want reading or math first, or if they want longer breaks or a shorter overall day. Be sure to include some breaks, and snacks as age-appropriate.

Here are some things to consider in planning your family schedule:

  • Have a way to signal when the workday begins. It could be changing into work clothes, when the tv is turned off, or after the breakfast dishes are done.
  • Include a time to tidy up the work area. You may need to do it before lunch and at the end of the day depending on the activities and ages of the children. For most people, a less cluttered space is less stressful. You probably have more things in the environment while everyone is home. Consider care and storage, and how you can control your environment with organization.
    Keep children to an age-appropriate sleep and wake time and make it part of the routine. Teens are more nocturnal, so if you can tolerate midnight lights out and 10 AM wake up, try it out.
  • Plan some non-screen time. Include reading or crafts, board games or napping, whatever is right in your family.
    Many of us need to alternate quiet sitting periods with periods of activity, adults as well as children. Consider this while planning.
  • Finally, when you set up a schedule, commit to trying it for 3 or 4 days. Come back together as a family to re-evaluate how the plan works for everyone. Changes may be necessary to get to the peaceful and productive family you want to be.

Planning, organizing, and maintaining a routine can help your family maintain order and keep peace in your house during this uncertain time. Need help planning your day? Download our COVID-19 Action Plan.