Restoring Routine: How to Bring Balance Back into the Home
Okay, I feel like I need to start this week off by removing my “counselor” hat for a bit, and let you in on a little self-disclosure. I consider myself a pretty routine person, but give me a day with no set schedule or plans and that is when I am my most content self! I like a vacation with a broad plan that can be modified depending on how we feel when we wake up. I can’t tell you how many times since this quarantine started that I’ve told my husband that if he wants to embark on a cross-country road trip to see our families in Oklahoma City, I’m all in and will be ready in an hour! When a task needs to be carried out, I am very detailed, focused and in control but I love the flexibility of determining when that Type A side of my brain needs to kick in. Of course, once I had my son, boring Saturdays and occasional snow days changed from Netflix and naps to being more about Legos and Lion King, Play Doh and Paw Patrol, but still, to have a day without a to-do list makes me a happy mom.
Knowing all of this about myself, when we started getting information about the Coronavirus and were told to socially distance and stay at home, I was pretty excited. It didn’t take long, though, to realize that, as city-wide restrictions increased and our undisclosed amount of time to spend at home was lengthening, my awareness of the need for a routine was evident. In the midst of our concern, we needed to prioritize as a family what was important for us to accomplish in this time and make a plan.
Restoring routine back into your home can be the first step in charting out what is needed to create a calm home environment.
Unfortunately, crises in life are inevitable. I wish I could say that was not true, but all of us at one point in our lives will find ourselves in hard times. Whether it be a natural disaster, the loss of a job or loved one, divorce, or other national emergencies, there will be a time when life doesn’t look like it did the day before. When trauma happens, the feelings of safety and security are often the first to go. Not only does crisis affect us as adults, but it can impact our children in a different way. Restoring routine back into your home can be the first step in charting out what is needed to create a calm home environment. Here are three ways to build a foundation for your family to build upon as you establish a new normal.
1. Find the familiar.
Everyone’s “familiar” is different, but we all have those things that make our house run smoothly. Whether that be scheduled family mealtimes, playtime, or bedtime, your children will feel more secure if the environment provided for them is predictable and consistent with what they are used to.
If you have older children, call a family meeting. Sit down together and acknowledge what crisis is happening and ask them each to tell you what daily practice is really important to them and put it in your schedule. Create a family calendar and identify ways you can all work together to bring calm to the situation.
For younger children, I love a visual schedule. Visual schedules use pictures to communicate a schedule of events that are happening each day and are great for helping little ones learn routine. Use a timer to make transitions easier between activities.
2. Maintain house rules and discipline as best as possible.
In times of crisis it is not uncommon to see your children acting out more than normal. It is because they are not feeling secure in the world around them and their ability to articulate their fear is through behavior more than words. It is important to be patient and give grace, while also sticking to your house rules and discipline. Let’s be real, when life gets tough, it takes a lot more energy to not let misbehavior slide, but kids need boundaries and they need as much consistency as possible to feel safe.
While in your family meeting, take time to acknowledge feelings, empathize with one another and discuss how those feelings can impact our ability to make good choices. Come up with “house rules” together and the consequences of those rules when they are broken. House rules might look different when life circumstances change, but they should not be abandoned altogether. Bring your children into the process. That will give them more ownership of their behavior and then it is something you can remind them of when they make a choice that goes against the rules you have all created.
3. Stay Connected
One of the best things we can do as parents in tough times is stay connected with one another and our children. I like to think of it as a see-saw effect. For as much trauma that has happened, it is good to balance the fear, sadness or worry your children might be feeling with activities that make them feel included and provided for. This might look like extra game nights, more meals eaten together, family prayer time, or, for the little ones, longer snuggle time before bed. When tensions are high and we are feeling exhausted as parents, it’s easier to argue or become impatient with one another. If you make connection a priority and intentional, the family bond will strengthen and grow.
Tough times take a toll on every member of the family. I will be the first to admit that in our current condition, I have had to be more lenient with activities that we can do inside (indoor obstacle course, anyone?) and we may be engaging in more screen time than normal, but we are also creating new routines and connecting more with each other in the process. My prayer is that you will also find strength to do the same. If you find yourself in the midst of a crisis that is bigger than what you as parents can navigate, please reach out to a counselor that can help carry the load with you. You don’t have to figure it out alone. Please join me next week as we conclude our series by focusing on how to care for ourselves so we can care for those we love.
Restoring Routine is Entry THREE in Sanctuary's blog series, Calm in Crisis, with licensed counselor, ministry wife, and guest blogger Karmen Wilson. Share with us in the comments about how routine is realized in the lives of your family dynamic.
Karmen Wilson has been a Licensed Professional Counselor for 12 years and worked as an elementary school counselor for ten of those years. She and her husband Cameron have been married for 11 years and have served in a ministry staff role, off and on, throughout their marriage, totaling about six years--Cameron in production and Karmen in teaching and small groups. The Wilson family recently moved to Los Angeles, CA where Cameron is the Production Director for Vintage Church. Together they are both passionate about following God's call on their lives and creating authentic relationships and community through church. In their free time, they keep busy playing cars and going to parks with their vibrant two-year-old son, Jaxson. They also love going to the beach and driving around, finding cool restaurants and attractions in L.A.! Karmen has a passion for helping individuals in the areas of self-discovery, healing past hurts, infertility, marriage, and parenting. She can be reached via email for consulting and coaching.