Our staff psychologist Dani Kaufman was recently quoted in an article on news.com.au, titled ‘Raising well-adjusted kids’.
The article suggests that there is one ritual that every parent should do with their child before the age of seven.
The ritual in question?
It may sound simple and general, and that’s because it is…
But developing your own family ritual will give your child consistency and security in the home, as well as setting them up with good habits for life.
‘Building routines with your children helps them to feel safe’, says Dani.
‘They know what to expect when they go home, and it provides them with clear boundaries, expectations, and consistency.’
In what some researchers have described as an ‘epidemic of anxiety’, the predictability and familiarity that comes with routine offers the perfect ‘safe space’ that kids need.
While school provides a form of routine, each day is also filled with uncertainties.
A consistent routine in the home will have far fewer variables, so your kids can relax in knowing what to expect.
And that’s why it is so important to develop and stick with a routine in challenging times, such as through a divorce or loss in the family.
With all the changes that come with a separation, the consistency you incorporate into the situation will help your kids to feel safe and know what to expect.
And not only is routine hugely helpful in making your kids feel safe, it’s also fundamental in the development of good habits.
Some parts of your family routine will already be there – such as meal times and sleep times.
And one of the easiest ways to make new habits stick is by pairing them with other rituals that are already in place, says Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than Before, a book that looks at the science of habit creation.
So whatever habits you would like to add to your child’s routine, frame them around the ones that are already there.
For example, if you’d like them to start cleaning their room once a day, have it become the ritual before dinner time.
If you’d like reading to be part of the daily routine, incorporate it before bed time.
The key to making good habits stick is to do them regularly.
So pick a new ritual, and keep with it. Make it simple, make it fun, and don’t add too many new activities to your routine at once.
It’s much easier to commit to one new activity at a time; adding too many changes to the mix will be overwhelming and make you and your child less likely to stick to the schedule.
Importantly, routine also teaches and creates boundaries.
While conversely, a lack of routine gets in the way of respecting boundaries.
This is because the habits that come with routine show kids that there are consequences to their behaviours.
For example, perhaps part of the routine is that play time only starts when homework is finished, or that dessert is only served when all their vegetables are eaten.
At home is the easiest place to learn long-term behaviours, and to understand the concepts of consequences, boundaries and rewards.
So keep ritual and routine in place wherever and whenever you can, to make the constantly changing nature of growing up as safe, predictable and easy for your child as possible (and making your life a little easier while they’re at it).