Executive Function Strategies Blog

How Establishing Routines Helps Students Cope with the Pandemic

Predictability. Just the word itself provokes a sense of calm. Unfortunately, the The value of routines in coping with a changed worldworld we live in at the moment is probably going to be the most unpredictable we have and will ever experience and none of it is in our control. We have a choice to allow this fact to overwhelm us or we can focus on what we can control. What can we do to make our personal worlds more calm, stable, and enjoyable?  

One way to accomplish this is to establish daily routines that can create a sense of stability even if there are many unknowns in our life. Children and young adults particularly thrive when they can follow daily routines that remain more or less the same. This is especially true now. Establishing before school, after school, and nighttime routines is essential for promoting cooperation and minimizing frustration during otherwise chaotic times. Whether school is at home or in-person, creating consistent routines will help the whole family deal with everyday life with more openness and acceptance.

The first step is to determine the steps in the routines. Here are samples of daily routines geared for younger children for both in-person and remote learning. Older children also need routines but they may not need the specific steps to be as detailed or even written down. 

In-School Learning Days

Before School

After School

Nighttime

Get ready for the day

Eat breakfast & check-in - 

How are you doing today?

Pack backpack

Put on shoes and jacket

Unpack backpack

Eat snack

Play outside

Do homework

Get ready for sports

Go to practice

Eat dinner

Take a shower

Watch one TV show

Brush teeth

Go to bed

 

Remote Learning Days

Morning

Afternoon

Evening

Get ready for the day

Eat breakfast & Check-in - 

How are you doing today?

Create an agenda for the day

Morning movement 

Start school work 

Take a break - social time with friends

Eat lunch

Do school work 

Exercise

Have social time with friends

Relax

Eat dinner

Take a shower

Watch one TV show

Brush teeth

Go to bed

 

Once you have created your routines (i.e., morning, after school, nighttime), you want to be sure all of your family members know them. Here are some tips on how you can easily communicate daily routines for you and your family: 

  • Post visual schedules in pictures for non-readers and words for readers so that everyone knows the plan for the day. This can be done via computer, chalkboard, bulletin board, or whiteboard. There are also many apps that help you create the schedules and either view them on a device or print them out. Cozi is a great app that can be shared with older children. Print weekly schedules and post them. You can also create a monthly calendar of family events and post the calendar. Everyone can look forward to enjoyable events and be prepared for those less preferred activities. 
  • Highlight changes and unusual events in your schedule and then discuss them ahead of time so that everyone knows what is going to happen. 
  • For children who may have difficulty remembering all the tasks required during morning, after school, or nighttime routines, create a visual schedule of the specific steps involved in the routine. Some kids really like to check off completed steps while others like to see the routine outlined and posted in one place. Be sure to post it in a location that makes sense for the routine. For example, post the nighttime or morning dressing routine in the bedroom or bathroom. 
  • Use checklists and charts to outline chores, rules, and other expectations you would like to communicate (and track, i.e. chores). You can also use charts to track chore completion and make rewards easy to determine. 
  • If children are doing remote learning, creating a daily agenda that includes any synchronous classes, required school work, social time, and exercise. Making written agendas/To Do lists will help everyone stay focused and be productive. Checking off completed tasks can also feel very rewarding to students and adults alike!

Although routines require some work up front, the pay-off can be huge. You will find that your family is on top of things, less stressed, and more cooperative. They may even start asking, “What’s the plan?” and “Where is the schedule?”.  That's when you know they have really bought in to the value of routines - and you've given them the tools to create their own routines by the time they head off to independent living.

One last tip - consider establishing a nice routine or two for yourself. For example, make Mondays your day to have lunch with a friend or colleague (even if it’s over Zoom) or set aside some specific days each week for exercise. You, too, can benefit from creating your own sense of predictability in an increasingly less stable world.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash


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