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4 Ways Having a Routine Contributes to a Happy, Healthy Family

Developing a framework can allow your family to prioritize what you value.

Every time I stand in line at the grocery store, I look at the magazines near the register. I often pick up one that has a headline about being organized on its cover. As someone who is not naturally organized, I’ve worked hard to understand the importance of being organized and having routines or schedules. Learning to juggle my family’s many plans has helped me embrace the need for routines. I’ve even found routines help our family be less stressed. If there’s one thing I need less of, it’s stress. Can you relate?

Through trial and error, I realized that routines provide a structured framework for my family (even for someone not naturally organized). The habits and plans you create for your family should be based on what works best for you. As a result, your routines will look different from other families, and that’s perfectly normal. 

When building your routine, allow for flexibility and adaptability over time. For example, your work schedule or your kids’ activities may change, so things will look different for each family. And you’ll probably have to adapt over time.

Here are a few ways that having a routine contributes to a happy, healthy family. Routines…

1. Provide a flow for the day. 

Your children learn what’s coming next. They begin to look forward to activities such as helping with dinner, storytime, or quiet time.

2. Create space for intentional family time. 

You may have movie night or family game night. One night of the week becomes breakfast for dinner night. 

3. Foster brain development in your children. 

Children can recognize signals for what’s happening next. When the lights are turned low, your child sees that the bedtime routine is beginning. When you walk to the bookshelf, they recognize storytime is starting, and they go to your “reading chair.”

4. Promote social and emotional development in kids. 

Children learn how to clothe themselves, brush their teeth, and clean up after themselves once routines are established. (Hello, independence!)

If you’re ready to create (or redo) a routine that works for your family, consider these things: 

Times that naturally lend themselves to routines.

There are specific times in the day that make having a routine more manageable. Routines around bedtime, storytime, playtime, dinner, or the mornings are a great place to start. Make it as simple as possible, with only a few steps. 

Things you can remove from your routine.

In creating the routine that works best, take a look at what you may need to remove from your schedule. When you write down your activities in order of importance, it will help you decide what no longer fits your plan.

It’s a work in progress.

Your routine may be ever-changing because your children continue to change and grow. The routine you create may work for a while but be open to tweaking it when you need to.

Having a routine doesn’t mean you need to fill all the time slots or that you’ll be the most organized family on the block. The intent is to provide a framework that allows your family to be healthy and happy, and to prioritize what you value. You may love quality family time, reading, or play. If so, build those things into your routine. But remember that your plans don’t have to be written in stone and followed like the law; routines are meant to serve you — not the other way around. 

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Adults are working from home. Students are learning from home. We’re Zooming and following IG stories to keep up with our friends and family. We have become more reliant on technology to earn a living, get an education, and stay connected to loved ones than ever before. 

Even in the midst of our dependence on WiFi, apps, smartphones, and social media, we look around at our family from time to time and say, “We’re texting each other from the next room. If we don’t get control of all this screen time, our family isn’t going to know each other.”

There are studies linking technology to mental health problems like loneliness, anxiety, and depression. People are suffering from issues such as video game addictions. Divorce filings are citing inappropriate online behavior as factors leading to marital collapse. 

Technology is often dictating how we spend our time instead of the other way around. As parents, part of wrestling control away from the screens working on releasing as many dopamine squirts in your brain to get you hooked means setting boundaries with your family.

Here are eight tips for setting boundaries in your family so technology can increase family togetherness and not cause a disconnect.

Set boundaries so technology serves a positive purpose in your family.

Technology can educate, connect, and entertain us in healthy ways. Boundaries help ensure that technology doesn’t take away from any of those positive things. Make sure a screen is never the only source for educating, connecting, and entertaining.

Be a good role model.

Boundaries can’t be one-sided. “Do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work. Yes, there are some perks to being an adult; being a technology-distracted parent isn’t one of them. Telling your kids not to bring phones to the dinner table while you sit at the dinner table and text is not a good plan. As a leader in your home, you must first lead by example

Protect your family.

Setting technology boundaries helps protect your family’s connection, safety, and both mental and physical health. Whether it’s cyberbullying or anxiety, establishing boundaries can work to safeguard your family’s wellbeing.

Make a plan.

Create a family technology plan which includes the purpose, boundaries, and consequences. Enforce consequences unapologetically. This can be as simple as taking away their game controllers or reducing their allotted tech-time.

Incentivize technological responsibility.

Encourage your family to make good decisions through rewards that are meaningful. Trips to the ice cream shop, extra tech-time on the weekend, choosing the movie on family movie night—anything that brings attention to good decision-making regarding technology usage reinforces the behavior you want to see. 

Designate tech-free time.

When possible, replace tech-time with family time. Make space for family movies, game nights, and family meals. Setting aside time before bedtime, when devices are off, will help the family connect and increase everyone’s chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

Don’t compare.

Focus on what’s best for your family. Don’t compare yourself to other families. No two homes are alike. It’s one thing to seek advice from other families, but keep your family values front and center.

Educate your family.

Invite your children to learn what you’re learning about the pros and cons of technology. Our family has watched documentaries, television specials and read information together. Being informed has helped our family understand the potential effects of technology on our mental health, relationships, and even our brains. This helps us hold each other accountable and helps us stay focused on the most important thing—our relationships.

Boundaries don’t have to be restrictive. Good boundaries will help your family enjoy relationships with each other by protecting you from potential distractions. Setting boundaries in your family is your way of putting technology in its place. Gadgets are not more important than your relationships with the people you love. Messing with those relationships is a boundary that you can’t give technology the freedom to cross.

Feeling some disconnect? Is there underlying family tension? Is the management of household chores lacking? Are big changes coming to the family? How is everyone handling what life is throwing their way? Do we only talk to each other to discuss the next day’s plans?

Or maybe you want to prevent your household from going in 1,000 different directions and losing touch with one another.

You need a family meeting.

The Benefits of a Family Meeting:

  • Pause to connect. There’s a lot that may be going on individually. Work, school, friends, extracurriculars, health, the list goes on. It’s easy to disengage and disconnect with one another even though you live in the same home.
  • Be on the same page. Meetings ensure that everyone understands the direction the family is moving in. They also help to eliminate misunderstandings and miscommunication
  • Not leave anything to chance. Meetings erase the need for assumptions and statements like, “I thought you were going to do…
  • Coordinate schedules. As families move from season to season, coming together to talk about plans and schedules for an upcoming season can prevent being overextended.
  • Children’s Self-Esteem. Meetings make sure that everyone in the family knows they are important. They let every family member know there’s a space for them to be heard.
  • Mental and Emotional Check-In. Meetings are an opportunity to observe and share how family members are doing.
  • Problem-Solving Skills. Family members learn and practice ways to solve problems together as they see what is modeled in family meetings.
  • Sees interconnectedness of family. Meetings allow everyone to see how each person works with and depends on each other.

The Step-By-Step

Pre-meeting Setup

  1. If married, talk with your spouse about the need for a family meeting. Tell them what you’d like to discuss.
  2. Set a time that’s going to work for everyone. Don’t try to squeeze it in 30 minutes before a ballgame. If you have older kids, give a day or two’s notice, but not more. It helps them coordinate with their robust calendar.
  3. Set a place for the meeting. You may have them all in your living room. You may change it up and have it outside by a fire, at a local ice cream shop, or during a family meal.

The Family Meeting

  1. Introduce the reason for the meeting.
  2. Have a Brief Activity such as pulling a question from a question jar. There’s value in getting everyone involved, laughing, and talking at the very beginning. You can find great family questions here and here.
  3. Introduce topic. Be mindful of how you approach the topic. Is this a topic for discussion, disseminating information, and making decisions? Is it about solving problems or hearing everyone’s thoughts? Whatever the topic, try not to lecture.
  4. Leave room for questions and feedback. Be sure to give everyone an opportunity to share their feelings about the matter and its conclusion.
  5. End with something fun. (Game, movie, ice cream, karaoke, etc.)

The Follow-Up

  1. Over the next couple of days, ask family members individually what they thought of the family meeting. (They may have more thoughts they didn’t express during the meeting.)
  2. Proactively address any action items that result from the meeting.

Reasons to Call a Meeting

  • Family Conflict. Siblings aren’t getting along (more than usual).
  • Celebrate. A family or individual milestone, an accomplishment, demonstration of a family value, paying off a loan, etc. (Don’t use family meetings for birthdays or holidays.)
  • Transition. New home, new job, new schools, new person moving in or coming to visit.
  • Changes in family routines and schedules. New season of gymnastics, scouts, soccer, and piano lessons. Discuss meal and night routines when everyone will be getting home later.
  • Check in emotionally and mentally. (Your kids may “show” more than “tell.”)
  • Family values. Introducing values, noticing behavior that isn’t consistent with family values.
  • Family Lifestyle Changes. Moving to healthier eating habits, money-saving practices, altering rules about electronics.
  • New family initiatives. Eating meals together, being more generous as a family, implementing a movie night, game night, etc.
  • Family Rally for Support/Encouragement. Supporting a family member dealing with health issues, job or school stresses, or working to accomplish a difficult task such as running a long distance race, etc.

Rules & Tips

  • Be Purposeful. Have specific topics for family meetings that are important to the entire family. Do not over schedule family meetings. Some things are one-on-one conversations. Others don’t require much conversation.
  • Quiet children may need a prompt to share. If someone isn’t talking at all, ask them, “What are you thinking?” or “What do you think is best?
  • Meeting Length: 20-30 minutes for families with children under 12. Can extend to 45 minutes with teens if they are engaged and are keeping the conversation going.
  • Family meetings often start the conversation. Children may think about it more later and share in the days after. Be open and sensitive to opportunities to listen to their thoughts after the meeting.
  • No electronics during the meeting—phones away!
  • Calm tone by the parent. (Kids take their emotional cues from their parents). Display the emotions that you want your kids to have about given topics.
  • Don’t use this time to single out a child’s negative behavior. (They’ll begin to dread family meetings if you do.)
  • Teach and practice listening without interrupting. If you model it as a parent, you can set the tone to help your children follow the same practice.
  • Don’t let the family meetings get into a rut. (Change location. Keep it fresh. Call a meeting simply to celebrate an accomplishment.)
  • Look for opportunities to allow your child to lead a family meeting, too. (And discuss with them the end goal and then give them freedom to lead responsibly. Teaches them healthy communication, leadership, empathy, and problem-solving skills.)

Your family meetings may initially get resistance from your children and maybe even your spouse. That’s ok.

People often don’t see the value in them until they experience the unity, increased communication, and connectedness that result from them. The meetings can help your family navigate through challenging situations. Additionally, they can provide anticipation for celebrating unique accomplishments. They can become a family staple that provides your children with some predictability in an extremely unpredictable world.

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