Now that the school season has started, it’s time to get everyone on a routine. You may have spent the summers staying up late and sleeping in as a family, but the school year requires a bit more structure. Here are some tips for setting a school night routine, courtesy of our family counseling centers in Michigan.
Benefits of Having a School Night Routine
Before we describe the ideal school night routine, we want to explain why it’s important to have a routine in the first place. Children do best in structured environments. They learn the value of responsibility, and they gain a sense of independence. School night routines also improve academic performance because children wake up well-rested and ready to absorb new information. It only takes a week or so to get children in a routine. Stick with it, and you will see rewards from it.
General Guidelines for a School Night Routine
Every family is different, so you may need to adjust these steps to suit your needs. Here is a template for a successful school night routine:
- Complete homework before dinner time. For older children, you may ask them to complete their homework before you get home from work, or you may designate homework times throughout the night based on their workloads. For younger children, you may allow them to eat a snack when they get home from school and then do their homework, if applicable.
- Eat dinner around the same time every night. Not only will this help with consistency, but it will also aid in digestion. The body thrives on routine just as much as the mind does. If your children know they will eat around a certain time each night, they will feel full and energized all day long.
- No technology at the dinner table. No phones, no tablets, no TVs. Reserve dinner time to talk about your days and interact with your children.
- Designate a time for television and electronics. This will vary from family to family. For instance, you may watch certain shows or movies as a family after dinner. You may allow your children to play video games for 30-60 minutes after dinner. You may allow everyone in the family to have 45 minutes of social media time before spending time as a family. That is up to you.
- Establish a bedtime routine. This should include cleaning/chores, showers/baths, brushing teeth, winding down for the night (perhaps with a book or 30-minute TV show), and a specific bedtime.
- Continue the routine into the morning. Set a time for your child to wake up in the morning, and schedule breakfast around the same time every day. Allot enough time for your child to wake up, get dressed, eat (if he or she is eating at home) and get to the bus stop (or other transportation arrangements).
Adjusting to Suit Your Family’s Needs
As we mentioned above, that schedule may not work for everyone. Feel free to make adjustments to fit your family. You might make one night a week completely free of technology, where you play board games or go for a walk as a family. You may need to vary the schedule for a shared custody arrangement. The goal is to keep your school night routine as repetitive as possible.
Try to Stay Consistent over the Weekend
Your weekend routines may be different than your school night routines, but the two should be complementary. You can let your children stay up later, but try not to adjust the timing too much. If you let your children do whatever they want over the weekend, it will be harder to get them back in the routine on Monday.
Continue to Part 2 where we discuss Tips for Maintaining a School Night Routine.