It’s that time of year again, with the summer coming to an end and fall beginning to emerge. It is a natural progression. With the start of school and a new season, it is often time for individuals, children, and families to start something new or hit the reset button on a previous routine. Starting or restarting can be an exciting task for some and daunting for others. Life can present itself with natural transitions to start fresh, or it can present itself with experiences that cause us to make changes unexpectedly. Whatever the reason for a new rhythm, here are a few nuggets to assist parents/caregivers when starting a new routine so that children move into a new rhythm with clarity and clear boundaries/expectations.
#1 Resistance will happen
Odds are that whenever change is implemented, there will be some resistance. Have you ever tried to start a new routine in the morning by getting up earlier? I’ve done this countless times. Usually, my thoughts will sound like, “Ah, this is too early,” “Why am I even doing this?”, “I’m tired and don’t really need to do this.” Everything inside of me is trying to stop myself from starting this new routine. I know I’m not alone in this. As humans, it’s natural for us to want to keep things the same and defy change. When new routines are implemented with kids, they will most likely tell you they don’t like it or show you with their actions. One way to push through the initial hurdle is to be aware that resistance will come; it’s inevitable.
#2 “Why” behind the change
There’s a “why” behind any new structure or routine. If you can be clear and concise about why this change occurs, it will be a grounding force for when resistance comes (and, oh, it will). Whether the new routine involves having breakfast as a family before school, structured screen time after school, or check-ins at the dinner table, it can be helpful to reflect on “why” this new routine is being implemented. The answer could be “to connect as a family” or “set clear boundaries.” Whatever the “why” is, being aware of it can help you to push past resistance, continue towards change, and embrace the new routine. If you’re interested in reading a book about cultivating your “why,” I recommend reading Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
#3 Consistency, not perfection
We are humans, after all. We make mistakes often; at least, that’s how I function in this world. Sticking with a new structure or rhythm is a challenging task. Check-in with yourself and your fellow parent/caregiver. Communicate about any resistance you may be experiencing and be gracious with yourself and one another. Creating a new structure is a challenging task. It’s not about doing things perfectly; it’s more about consistency. Continuing to show up day in and day out. And when we slip up or fall away from routine, we can model being gracious to ourselves and trying again. We can model this to children by saying something like, “Oh, we seem to have drifted from our routine; let’s reset,” or “I lost track of time, and we didn’t have time for a family check-in today. Let’s do that now or at bedtime. It’s important to us because (fill in your why).” When we model making mistakes, we show children that it’s more about the process of creating a new routine and the connection rather than doing things perfectly.
Rather than moving into power struggles over resistance to change, move towards connection. Connection with your fellow caregiver, children, and family members. There is no influence without relationship. Influence and connection can profoundly impact a child’s response to change. Connection can be fostered through spending quality time together or taking turns participating in one another’s interests. Moving towards connection and keeping your “why” in the foreground can be helpful ways to push past the resistance and continue to implement a new structure in your family.