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Why Compassion is One of the Most Important Qualities in a Healthy Marriage

You won't believe how it benefits you, your spouse, and your relationship!

Compassion is important in marriage! 

Did you know that there’s a whole science behind compassion in relationships? Seriously! Ok, bear with me, even if you’re not a researchy-geek like me (I promise I won’t make this sound like your high school chemistry book.) Because compassion is majorly important in marriages, even more so than you might think. And research has a lot to say about it. 

Just like anything sciency, it’s essential to define terms well. And sometimes compassion, empathy, and sympathy get mixed up. Let’s untangle that. 

Sympathy = You share the same feelings or experiences with someone else. They hurt, you hurt. You can sympathize. 

Empathy = You don’t share the same feelings or experiences, but you choose to imagine what it might be like. They hurt; you don’t but can put yourself in their shoes. You can empathize. 

And then we come to compassion. This is when you empathize/sympathize with someone (say, your spouse), and you’re prompted to show kindness in their situation. 

They hurt. You empathize/sympathize. You say something to lift their spirits. Compassion! 

So, sympathy/empathy are only the beginning of compassion. One study even suggests being empathetic is good to a point, but it can actually affect you negatively unless it’s followed up by compassion.1  

So compassion is more than a feeling. (Classic rock fans, anyone?) Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, compassion isn’t really beneficial unless it’s put into action. One researcher describes compassionate acts as “caregiving that is freely given.”

Think about this in your marriage. 

No matter what your spouse experiences, good days or bad, you can: 

  • Sympathize with them, or…
  • Choose to empathize with them, and then…
  • Feel compassion toward them, which…
  • Prompts compassionate action

Y’all…we should be doing this all the time in our marriage! 

Why? (Here we go with the science again…) Research3 tells us compassion is good for you, your spouse, and your marriage!

  • Compassion toward a spouse predicts higher levels of daily relationship and life satisfaction for both people. (Don’t miss this: happiness in marriage goes up on a daily basis! Who doesn’t want that?)  
  • Compassionate acts benefit the emotional and mental well-being of the person receiving them (in this case, your spouse). 
  • The person who is acting compassionately toward their spouse also experiences a positive effect on their well-being, even if the spouse doesn’t necessarily recognize the compassionate act! 

Bottom line: Compassionate acts do a marriage good. 

It makes you a better spouse. It makes your spouse a better person. And it makes your marriage more loving, intimate, and strong. 

Let’s consider one more reason why compassion might be one of the most important qualities in marriage. No matter who you are, most of us would agree that the world could always use a little more compassion. What if the real power of compassion in our world begins with compassionate action in our marriages and families? We know kindness is contagious.4 As they say: as families go, so goes the world. 

So, inject some compassionate action into your marriage — for your spouse, for you, for the world. 

Sources:

1 Functional Neural Plasticity and Associated Changes in Positive Affect After Compassion Training

2Compassionate Love: A Framework For Research

3Compassionate Acts and Everyday Emotional Well-being Among Newlyweds

4Social Contagion Theory: Examining Dynamic Social Networks and Human Behavior

MOST POPULAR LINKS ON TOPIC:

The Most Important Quality in a Marriage is…

30 Ways to Be a More Compassionate Spouse

7 Tips on How to Communicate With Your Spouse in a More Compassionate Way

When You Don’t Like Your Friend’s Friend

A good relationship is worth the risk you may have to take.

What do you do when you don’t like your friend’s friend? This is a tricky but common situation.

And for the record, we aren’t talking about someone in your friend’s life who just rubs you the wrong way. This goes considerably deeper than personality. Still, let’s leave no room for misunderstanding.

First, let’s ask some clarifying questions.

  1. Could it be you? Are you the jealous type? Prone to overreacting? (Sorry. Had to ask.)
  2. Could this person be awful at first impressions? How much have you been around them? (Without being all gossipy, is anyone else in your friend circle picking up on this?)
  3. Is this person truly toxic? A bad influence on your friend? Are you legitimately worried about your friend?

Okay, so number three is on the table. You’re worried about your friend. They seem to have a blind spot about this person, and this “friend” negatively influences them. This obviously isn’t cool.

Second, let’s wrap our heads around what’s going on.

  • This person may be in a bad season of life, and their negativity is affecting your friend.
  • This person may be making lifestyle choices that you know go against your friend’s values, and you see your friend heading that way.
  • He or she may be in a bad relationship, divorcing, or divorced, and they are poisoning your friend’s relationship or view of marriage.
  • This person might be vocal about their views on sex, faithfulness, integrity, and they’re encouraging your friend to move outside their boundaries and character.
  • Your friend may be in a vulnerable position and highly susceptible to influence.
  • You may have already seen changes in your friend that concern you.

If you see any of these things, or something similar, a conversation with your friend is in order.

Research shows that we are wired to catch and spread emotions and behaviors just like we catch and spread a cold or virus. 

Psychologists use the term “social contagion” to describe how individuals or groups influence us. Simple examples include yawns and smiles, but they can also include infidelity and divorce. As much as we want to think we’re our own person, we are all susceptible to the influence of others — both positive and negative. It’s not uncommon to see it happening to our friends while they’re oblivious to it. We have blind spots. 

What do you do when your friend has a toxic friend who is a bad influence on them?

Friends help friends see their blindspots. Sometimes our friend’s immediate response is gratitude. Sometimes it can be anger or resentment. Often, it depends on the rapport you have with your friend and the trust you’ve developed in that relationship. 

Bottom line: You have to use your judgment. Do you have “relationship capital” built up with your friend to call them out on how they’re changing or being influenced? Has the “threat” risen to the level that you are willing to risk your friendship?

You’re a quality friend for caring. You gotta do something about this because that’s what quality friends do. But you’re also aware that this sort of thing can go sideways and, worst-case scenario, you could lose a friend over it.

Know this. Believe this. You’re responsible for bringing your concerns to your friend. 

Be tactful, respectful, and direct. Your friend is responsible for how they respond. Truth. You have to know that you’re doing what good friends do. Your friend is responsible for their reaction, which is entirely out of your control. Are you prepared to lose a friend because of your sense of duty, responsibility, loyalty, and being a quality friend? 

Sadly, this is what it often comes down to in the short term. Sometimes your friend will be grateful after they’ve processed what you’ve said, heard similar things from other friends, or experienced some negativity. But it’s hard on you to lose some standing with a friend or have to watch them learn something the hard way.

Keep your concern about your friend front and center rather than negativity about your friend’s friend who has you concerned. You won’t regret speaking the truth from a caring heart.

Other helpful blogs:

7 Signs You’re a Good Friend

3 Keys to Deeper Friendships

Valuable Relationships Make You a Better Person

My Friends Are Getting Divorced and It’s Affecting My Marriage

What You Need to Know About Post-Pandemic Anxiety

Just like COVID affects us in different ways, so can the aftermath.

Summer is in full swing, and things seem to be getting back to normal. Fifteen months ago, the world was full of questions and uncertainty. Today, businesses are reopening, large-scale events and social gatherings are returning, and school resumes in the fall. While some people are relieved by these things, not everyone is. 

Some may feel anxious about the post-pandemic world. 

Many people shifted how they lived during the height of the pandemic. We had to adjust to life as we knew it, and now we see a slow return to a pre-pandemic normal. It’s common to feel anxiety and uncertainty due to change.

2020 brought a drastic shift in life around the globe, affecting us all in different ways. You may have been affected to a greater degree than those around you. You may have felt a little out of place because of that. Maybe you still do. It’s okay. Anxiety during the post-pandemic period is normal, and we all deal with things in our own way. Over the last 12 months, several studies have examined the pandemic’s impact on mental and physical health. As you would expect, researchers have found increased stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several studies call this stress post-pandemic anxiety.

So, what is post-pandemic anxiety?

We all experienced a global pandemic over the last 15 months. But we didn’t all have the same experience. Many factors may have affected your experience: job loss, being classified as an essential worker, parenting and dealing with school from home, being in closer proximity to those infected with the virus, contracting the virus, or being quarantined are just a few examples. 

According to Canadian researchers, “several studies have reported high levels of fear of infection and a pandemic-specific adjustment disorder called the COVID Stress Syndrome.

The COVID Stress Syndrome has five features.

1. danger and contamination fears

2. socioeconomic concerns

3. Xenophobia (the fear or hatred of that which is perceived as foreign)

4. traumatic stress symptoms

5. compulsive checking and reassurance seeking.

There is emerging evidence that some people have developed post-traumatic stress disorder in response to COVID-19 related events.”

An Italian study conducted in 2020 found a similarity between anxiety induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since previous studies have identified PTSD in the months following epidemics or medical emergencies, this isn’t uncommon. Survivors, healthcare workers, people in direct contact with those infected, those subject to restrictive measures (quarantine and shutdowns), and those overly exposed to media information are at high risk for developing PTSD. 

Of course, not everyone who experiences anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic suffers from PTSD. Anxiety can be seen as more of a sliding scale. People might experience varying levels of stress and anxiety as the world reopens.

Did I experience stress or trauma?

A Canadian study found that 15-25% of the general worldwide population experienced clinically significant levels of anxiety or stress-related symptoms in response to COVID-19. It’s likely that even more people experienced general distress due to the pandemic. Understandably, we all experienced varying levels of stress or even trauma. 

What signs should I be aware of?

You may want to dismiss what you’ve experienced over the past year, but reflecting on how the pandemic has affected you might be good for your mental health. Pay attention to your emotions because self-awareness is the first step in getting help if you need it. Here are some signs of anxiety according to the American Psychological Association:

  1. Persistent worry or feeling overwhelmed by emotions
  2. Excessive worry about a number of concerns
  3. Restlessness and irritability
  4. Difficulty concentrating
  5. Sleep problems
  6. Generally feeling on edge

While anxiety is normal with lots of situations, including post-pandemic, it’s whether the anxious feelings decrease over time that really determines if someone might need to seek professional help. If these symptoms don’t improve, reach out to a counselor or therapist. If you see a loved one struggling with anxiety, encourage them to seek help as well.

Sources:

Post-traumatic stress disorder and psychological distress in Chinese youths following the COVID-19 emergency. Journal of Health Psychology, August 2020.

COVID-19 Pandemic in the Italian Population: Validation of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Questionnaire and Prevalence of PTSD Symptomatology. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, June 2020.

Real versus illusory personal growth in response to COVID-19 pandemic stressors. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, May 2021.

Stress in America 2021 Survey Report. American Psychological Association.

Psychological Impact of COVID-19. American Psychological Association

Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?

Do your homework on the topic and move forward from there.

You may be trying to decide: Should we move in together? Or perhaps you already live together and have some questions. Is living together bad for your relationship? Is this going to be good or bad for us? 

You’ve probably heard lots of strong opinions. Let me be straight-up with you; there’s no simple answer. 

I hope to give you information that you may not have known before and let you come to your own conclusions. That’s how we make wise decisions about relationships, right? Find out all you can, weigh the arguments on both sides (even if you lean to one side at first), and go from there. That’s what I hope you’ll do. 

Some of what makes this question not-so-simple is that you’re dealing with likelihoods. What are the odds that living together will be good or bad? I don’t know about you, but I’m not a gambler. I don’t like betting against the odds. Life turns out much better when you know what’s most likely to happen. 

Here’s what we can gather about likelihoods: 

  • It seems reasonable (or likely) that living together should improve the odds of doing well later in marriage. Not only is there little research supporting this belief, but the evidence isn’t that strong. 
  • As a matter of fact, living together before marriage has been most strongly associated with poorer marital outcomes. Experts call this the “premarital cohabitation effect.” Those who have lived together before marriage are more likely, not less, to struggle in marriage. And these marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
  • As living together before marriage became more accepted in society, people thought the association with divorce would decrease, making it less likely. This also has not been the case. 
  • In fact, couples who lived together tend to report having very little struggle in the first year of their marriage. (It makes sense: They’ve already negotiated the initial shock of all the changes that come with moving in.) But in the years after, the cohabitation effect comes into much greater play, making divorce much more likely after their first year of marriage.
  • If you want to compare living together with what marriage may look like, you could be setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations. There are fundamental differences in trust levels and relationship satisfaction between married and cohabiting couples. Couples who live together are much less likely to trust in their partner’s faithfulness, truthfulness, and responsibility than married couples. 

I realize this might paint a bleak picture of living together. I don’t mean for it to; this isn’t my opinion nor anyone else’s. It’s simply the likelihood that research shows us. 

Here’s another thought: There’s a theory out there that says moving in together makes it much harder to break up if the relationship goes south. The evidence tends to back this up. When you share bills, furniture, living space, a pet, and a bed, splitting up isn’t so cut-and-dry. (This is ironic because almost a quarter of people living together report they are testing the relationship.) Even if you feel you’re beyond the testing phase of your relationship, research shows the commitment level of couples living together is typically different than married couples. All this needs to be weighed very carefully before making a major decision. 

Some final questions to consider: If you decide not to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter either of you from considering marriage later on? If it would, what does it say about your relationship? 

And if you decide to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter you from breaking up if you needed to? If so, what would that say about your relationship? 

At the end of the day, you have to come to your own conclusions. Again, I encourage you to step back and consider what’s at stake. Do plenty of homework and move forward from there. Be careful to discern between facts and mere opinions or personal perspectives. The health of your relationship and future marriage just may well depend on it. 

You may also like:

5 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move in Together

5 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move In Together

Find out if living together will help you accomplish what you want.

Living together is pretty common these days. For many, living together is a natural progression in the evolution of their relationship, which may or may not lead to marriage. But it has its own set of complications, and there are things every couple should know before they move in together. I’m not trying to convince or dissuade you. Instead, I want to give you food for thought so you can make healthy decisions for your life. 

This blog is for you if: 

1. You are not seriously dating.

2. You’re seriously dating and thinking about moving in together.

3. You live together but recognize there are more things you need to discuss. 

No matter your relationship status, talking about significant issues can create the healthiest connections. 

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What’s my long-term plan? Our long-term plan?
  • What’s my level of commitment? My partner’s commitment level?

Here are FIVE essential topics every couple should know about and consider before they move in together.

1. Your reason: Why should we live together? 

Be honest with yourselves and each other. Is it about:

  • Money? 
  • Moving out of your parents’ house or away from that annoying roommate? 
  • The next step toward marriage? 

Continuing blindly down this path can lead to disappointment. Additionally, you should know your partner’s reason for living together. A Pew Research study offers many couples’ reasons, which include:

  • Love 
  • Companionship
  • Convenience
  • Natural next step 
  • Learn more about each other
  • Want to test the relationship

Share your reasons. It’s natural to be hesitant about having this conversation, but there’s no such thing as a risk-free relationship. Talking about it allows you both to be vulnerable and transparent.   

2. Your expectations: What will you (or won’t you) share? 

Now that you’ve shared your reasons, communicate your expectations with your partner. Assuming things can damage your relationship, especially if you think you agree, but you don’t. Your expectations should be realistic. If you have different expectations, you each may have to compromise. Now’s the time to get down to the nitty-gritty. 

Discuss things like: 

  • Who’s cooking and/or cleaning? 
  • Who will shop and/or do the laundry? 
  • Who does the yard? 
  • Are we having meals together every night? 
  • What are your long-term expectations (house, marriage, kids)? 

Talking about this isn’t sexy, but it’ll help your relationship in the long run.

3. Your finances: What’ll it cost you? 

Many couples think living together is cheaper than living apart. This may or may not be true, but they often don’t communicate about finances. 

Talk about: 

  • Who will move in where? 
  • How much will we pay for rent? 
  • Will we get a new place? Will we both be on the lease? 
  • Who pays for what (groceries, car payment, car insurance, rent, cable, electricity, water, internet, phone, etc.)? 
  • What’s our personal debt (credit card, student loan, etc.)? 
  • What will it cost you if you break up? (You may want to talk about a cohabitation agreement. )

(psssst… Want a fun, lighthearted way to start the conversation? Check out this Financial Would You Rather from Annuity.org!)

4. Your habits: How will they impact your relationship? 

When living together, you become well acquainted with the habits and behaviors of your partner in a whole new way. Knowing that they exercise at 4:00 AM is one thing. Experiencing them exercising at 4:00 AM is something totally different. 

Discuss:

  • Are they a night owl or an early bird? Neat or messy? 
  • Are they an exercise, sports, home improvement, or cooking fanatic? 
  • How do they handle stress? Express emotions? 
  • What’s their work life like? Working remotely, hybrid, or in the office? 
  • Do they bring work home every night? 

5. Your other relationships: How will you interact with your village?  

While focusing on each other and excluding friends and family may be tempting, living together won’t mean you’re on an island. You each have friends and family in your lives that matter; they support and challenge you to be better versions of yourselves. Nurturing those relationships can benefit your growth as an individual and as a couple. 

Living together is not something to do without some considerations. 

Remember to think about: 

  • What do I want out of this relationship? 
  • What’s the end goal? 
  • Do I want to get married? 
  • Do I want to have children who are healthy and stable? 

However you answer these questions, you’ll want to find out if living together will help you accomplish what you desire or if it will hinder you. It’s up to you to decide.

You might also like:

Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?

Is Overthinking Killing Your Relationships?

Get tips for what you can do about it.

I hit the road every Saturday morning. Usually, I’m gone for an hour or two. Saturday is my long run day. The time commitment of training for a half marathon is significant. As I walk out the door, my little ones are wide awake and active. They hit me with the questions… “Where are you going, Dad?” “When will you be back?” “Why will you be gone for so long?” “Can you stay with us?”

Up to a few months ago, I felt guilty for leaving them. I felt like I was being selfish. I questioned if I was neglecting my wife and kids to do something I wanted to do, which took so much time and energy. This was me overthinking, being flooded with negative self-talk. They didn’t tell me I was being selfish. They were my biggest cheerleaders. But my overthinking was affecting reality.

Have you been there? Are you an overthinker, too?

What is overthinking?

In his latest book, Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking, Jon Acuff offers us a simple definition of overthinking. He says, “Overthinking is when what you think gets in the way of what you want.” 

When I think I’m neglecting my family to go on long runs one day a week, I’m listening to negative self-talk. Acuff calls these soundtracks. They are symptoms of overthinking that get you nowhere. We are just wasting resources on dead-end thoughts. He refers to overthinking as “the greatest thief of all. It steals time, creativity, productivity, hope.”

We can all be subject to overthinking as a spouse, a parent, a boss, an employee, or a friend. In any scenario, overthinking can be detrimental to furthering our relationships.

So, how do I stop overthinking?

Jon Acuff suggests we retire our broken soundtracks, replace them with new ones, and then repeat the new ones so often that they become the predominant thoughts you hear. The soundtracks we listen to are associated with an action. A broken soundtrack leads to inaction. It doesn’t take us anywhere, and doesn’t motivate us to push toward our goals. 

Let me give you a real-life example. Training for a half-marathon takes anywhere from 4-6 hours a week for 12-18 weeks. This is time I would normally spend with my family. My negative self-talk led me to believe I was neglecting them and that I needed to spend that time with them, having fun. This made my training difficult because I felt guilty. That’s my broken soundtrack—all in my head.

My wife told me, “We are so proud of you. You are setting goals and doing what you love.” She helped me see that even though I was giving up some family time, I showed my kids what it looks like to set goals and take steps to achieve them. And there’s a bonus: they’re getting some weekend trips to races that they are super excited about.

I retired my broken soundtrack, replaced it with a new one, and it’s playing on repeat.

To stop overthinking, we have to identify a broken soundtrack. But, how do we do that?

Jon Acuff gives us a simple way to figure it out. Write down something you want to do. Doesn’t have to be anything significant. Maybe it’s, “I want to have a weekly date night.” Then, listen to the first thought you have. What is your first reaction? If you immediately start saying, We don’t have the money, we don’t have the time, or we can’t afford a babysitter, you’re overthinking.

Congrats, you just found a broken soundtrack. Now ask three simple questions about that thought:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it helpful? (Does it move me forward or hold me back?)
  3. Is it kind?

You don’t have to ask these questions about every thought, but ask about the big ones. Question the thoughts that seem to be holding you back the most. You might be surprised at how many broken soundtracks are playing in your mind.

Overthinking doesn’t have to kill your relationships. If you are an overthinker, evaluate those thoughts. Identify if they are true, helpful, or kind. And if those thoughts are hurting your relationships, it’s time to release, reshape and repeat new ones. You can choose what you think. Tell yourself, “I have the permission and the ability to choose what I think during the day to lead me to action I will take.”

Other helpful blogs:

Are You Setting a Good Example of Self-Care for Your Family?

How Couples Can Help Each Other De-Stress and Improve Their Relationship

Why Spending Time Alone Is Good for Your Marriage

5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time

4 Reasons Your Relationship Issues are a “You” Problem

An honest look can help you be a better version of yourself.

When I was in college, one of my favorite shows to watch was The Late, Late Show with David Letterman. He was known to have funny skits as well as the famous Top 10 list. 

You’re probably wondering why I’m taking this stroll down memory lane.

Well, you’re probably reading this because you have had issues in multiple relationships with friends, family, work, and dating. Let’s be real: those issues affect us all, but they can be frustrating and downright hard. Personally, you may be wondering some things like:

  • Why do friends and family keep ghosting me? 
  • Why can’t I seem to get along with anyone at my job?
  • How do I get others to see that my way actually works better than theirs most of the time?
  • Do I want to have all the control in my relationships?

There’s no easy way to say this, and it may be a painful thing to even think about, but…

The answer may be that your relationship issues are a “you” problem. 

Self-examination is not always easy, and it rarely feels good, but it’s so worth it! With that in mind, here are 4 reasons which might signal that relationship issues are a “you” problem. (Look at this as my version of David Letterman’s Top 10, except there’s only 4.)

1. It’s never your fault.

When you don’t take or acknowledge any responsibility for problems in your life, that’s the epitome of a “you” problem. The blame can’t be and isn’t always on everyone else. People make mistakes and missteps, including you. Accountability and self-awareness are keys to effectively process how you impact your life and the lives of others around you. The good news: you can grow in this area.

2. You lack self-awareness.

Take some time to think about your past relationships. Look for patterns and tendencies, not of past partners, but YOUR OWN. Were you critical? Did you always have to be right? Did you listen? It’s essential to examine your behavior in the relationship. In taking an honest look at yourself, you may find some things that you don’t like to see or that you were unaware you did. The good news: others can help you see any blind spots you may have if you’re willing to find out.

3. You notice similar negative patterns.

Maybe you have become comfortable with the way things go in your life. You get takeout from your favorite restaurants and get your clothes from your favorite stores. We also have patterns in our relationships. You may have met your former significant others in similar ways. When you look back at your previous relationships and recognize many unhealthy issues and commonalities between them, that may be a “you” problem. The good news: you can step out of your comfort zone and make positive changes.

4. It’s your way or the highway.

It’s normal to want to have some say over what happens in your life. Or to be concerned about what happens in the lives of those you care about. It’s another thing altogether to consciously or unconsciously believe that the people in your life should automatically defer to you about the desires in their lives. It can be a “you” problem when people move out or are moved out of your life because they don’t respond in the way you would like. The good news: listening to others and respecting them even if you disagree goes a long way. The only person you can control is you!

When problems arise in your life, it’s essential to look at the person in the mirror. This is not to say that everything is a “you” problem. But, you do contribute to the problem. We all do! Being open to changing, growing, or adapting as needed is a significant first step toward correcting “you” problems. 

Growing isn’t meant to stop you from being you, but to help you be a better version of yourself. Once you are a better “you,” then forming meaningful relationships becomes easier. Healthy relationships often involve growing pains, but they are worth the effort, and so are you!

Other helpful resources:

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. 

Other helpful blogs: