News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Focus on Routines…But Don’t Overschedule

JCCHD | Tue, September 02, 2014 | [Healthcare][Sibling Spotlight]

Routines are great, but over-scheduling can cause stress for the whole family.

In a recent post, we highlighted the importance of routine in a child’s life. The benefits of a routine for children and teens are numerous and well-documented. But it can get dicey when a well-meaning parent rigidly schedules every minute of a child’s day.

With increasingly intense academic demands and daunting schedules imposed on kids today, it’s easy for parents to get caught up in extra-curricular activities, sports, tutoring, music lessons, et cetera. And when a child has special needs, many of those activities are scheduled along with therapies and appointments. We want to give our children every chance we can to be productive and competitive, and we can forget the best reason to expose them to different activities: to provide them the opportunity to find their own way.

Down time is very important to a child’s journey of self-discovery. Boredom can be a powerful thing. In those moments, kids listen to their inner voice and discover what really makes them happy. Over-scheduling does not allow time for self-reflection.

Overscheduled Kids

While it is beneficial to let your child try new things, and even to gently push them to do an activity or learn a skill they may not immediately like, it’s important to listen to them and pay attention to their interests.

You can help by making sure that your child has adequate homework and study time. Be actively informed of their workload and block off an appropriate amount of time. Cutting into study time can often lead to cutting into sleep time.

Also keep in mind that sit-down dinners are very beneficial to your family’s overall health. When you take the time to plan a meal and eat together, you are much more likely to make good nutritional choices that will help fuel the rest of your day.

While planning your child’s routine, here are some suggestions of which “times” should stay consistent, and where to leave room for flexibility and creativity:

Keep a consistent routine with:
-Wake-up time
-Meal times, including a sit-down
-Homework time
-Bed time
-Prescribed therapies (speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc.)

Fill in the blanks with a balance of:
-Organized activity/lesson time
-Friend/social time
-Family time
-Down time

And remember, when you manage your own time well, it serves as a great example for your entire family.