Routines can be as Easy as 1-2-3
Every family I meet lately is concerned about stress. Parents are weary and overwhelmed and children are tense, easily frustrated and confused. Even in couples counseling when children are not involved, partners complain of too much to do, not enough time and feeling discouraged.
In my last post, I encouraged families to look at summer as a great time for creating some new routines. This is especially helpful when someone in the family experiences problems with attention. In this post I want to encourage everyone to “take charge” of some aspect of the things to be done by developing a new routine. If you can create routines, and reliably complete them on a schedule, you can reduce stress.
Whenever possible, try to create three step routines. It is easier to remember that it is three (a first, middle and last) stages. As you master a three-step routine, learn a new one and then eventually string three (three-step) routines together in a sequence. Try to get good at the routine so you can accomplish the task (and the three steps) without even thinking. It is also helpful if you practice and keep time so that you can gradually get faster at the tasks. Greater mastery and efficiency encourage participants to experience success and have more time for activities they prefer.
Keep routines positive for everyone in the household. (That includes parents). Offer incentives and most of all; make sure you participate in a positive way. It is important to be a guide, mentor and coach when helping people learn new routines. It also helps when parents and older children learn the routines first. Then they can be a good model. They are often the first to appreciate acquiring a new routine. Younger children can follow steps that use pictures instead of words. Of course, charts are a great tool for remembering the steps and for rewarding the accomplishment of the new routine.
When I help families start learning routines, we make a list of all the things that need to improve. We prioritize the list and then start with one in the middle of the list. This helps create motivation, but not so much pressure as if it was the most important priority item. Sometimes in a crisis, the most important has to come first. It is easier when learning new routines if we do not start with the most challenging concern.
Routines promote stability and confidence. Three steps to your new routine:
1. Brainstorm a list of all the areas where a new routine would help
2. Prioritize the list
3. Select an item from the middle of the list and develop the instructions/process for the new routine.
Repeat the process about every 3 – 6 weeks when the latest routine is mastered. When you are good at developing and mastering the new routine, work down your list tackling the most important ones first. Involve the whole family in the process. Update your list a few times each year.
There are excellent articles from around the world about the value of routines. Take time to learn more about the universality of building good family routines. Here are just a few links, Australia, United Kingdom, and here in the United States of America. There are benefits for mental health and physical health including a study indicating that three routines reduce obesity. The internet has a wealth of checklists and charts that can help every family. Here is one site of customizable Chore Checklists. Summer is a great time for reducing stress and making time for the fun things in life. I hope your new routines help you do more of what you most enjoy.
Did you know that talking to a life coach by phone could help you build your routine repertoire? It might be a great way to reduce stress and build new life enhancing routines.
Margaret Cook, M.Ed., Licensed Professional Counselor