Somehow July has already come and gone and we find ourselves closer to the end of summer than the beginning. With August here, it’s only natural to start thinking about the kids heading back to school and all of the preparation that comes along with that annual transition. Yes, there’s back-to-school clothes and books, but aside from the material goods, what simple changes can we make to ensure that this school year is the best one yet for kids and parents alike? The answer may be simpler than you think. Here are the top 6 reasons why developing or improving some simple daily routines may be your saving grace this September:
- Become More Efficient: When there are a million and one tasks that must get completed in a single day, it helps to know exactly which one is next and not have to contemplate or prioritize each job. Homework comes before dinner. Dinner comes before lunch preparations for the next day. Lunch prep is followed by tooth brushing, then reading, then lights out! Whatever the tasks may be, having routine cuts out the guesswork and eliminates the need to make the same decisions day after day.
- Better Sleep & More Energy: A followed routine has been consistently shown to lead to better sleep, improved mood, and more energy. Start with a better bed-time routine (no screen time, no electronics after certain hours but reading instead, etc.) and this will translate into falling asleep more quickly and a more restful sleep. It is particularly important to avoid blue lights from electronics within one hour of bed-time as this can block the production of our sleep hormone, melatonin.
- Develop Good Habits: School habits turn into work habits. That means that even if your kids are only in elementary school this September, they are learning how to best operate in the ‘real’ world, which will translate when they are eventually off to post-secondary school or entering the workforce. Instilling routine and good habits now will benefit them later in life.
- Save Money: Packing lunches for yourself and the family avoids the scramble the next day and the inevitable last-minute option of buying lunch or dinner. When we cook and meal-plan for the whole family, our bank accounts benefit in the long run. Try dedicating just one hour per week to meal planning for the upcoming week, preferably just before you plan on buying groceries. Doing this avoids wasted food and can allow you to do ‘targeted’ shopping.
- Avoid the question “Why?”: The resistance from a child can be exhausting. “Why do I have to pack my lunch? Why can’t I go outside and play? Why do we have to clean up before having dinner?” If you have a set routine surrounding daily tasks, these questions are more likely to become non-issues because you’re building expectations. “We do this everyday. You know that you have to pack your lunch tonight otherwise you will run out of time in the morning.”
- Improve Your Overall Health: The common thread between all of these other routine benefits is that we are healthier and happier as a result. We often know that we should be making better food choices and getting more sleep. Routine helps to get us there and it increases the chances for success! It goes without saying but visiting your healthcare providers regularly will drastically improve your health in the long run, too.
In the end, routine will make the day-to-day tasks easier and it will allow your children to get the greatest benefit out of going back to school. It will also make the transition easier for you as the parent. But routine doesn’t mean that there should be no room for fun! It is important for both kids and parents to have leisure time where we break our patterns and let loose a bit. Ironically, routine is key for making weekends, summertime, and vacations so enjoyable – we appreciate the break from the norm so much more.
As a rule of thumb, living by the 80/20 rule should be a decent balance point for most, where 80% of the time we are following a schedule and 20% of the time we can act spontaneously. So, enjoy a bit more of the 20% this August but then start thinking about ways to transition back into the 80% come September!
Dr. Colin O’Brien, ND