Managing Routines and Schedules

Most people, kids very much included, do best when they know what to expect. This is especially true when experiencing big changes, upsetting events, and other stressors. During such times, it is important to continue as much of your normal routine as you can or, if that is not possible, to set new routines when change is unavoidable. Expectations for appropriate behavior and actions also need to be maintained for both parents and kids. Since changes in routine can be stressful, it will be helpful to talk with your kids about why these changes are happening and what the new daily structure will be. As always, the more kids can be involved in making the new routines the more likely they will be to follow them.

Setting goals is one way to provide clear expectations for yourself and your family. This does not mean that you have to try something new. For example, you might set a goal to slowly return to an activity, like game night, that you stopped doing because of a stressful family change. When setting goals, remember to make them specific so you will know if you accomplished them. You are more likely to be successful if you set small manageable goals, rather than big ambitious ones that become overwhelming. Make goals meaningful so that your life is a little bit better for having worked toward them. And maybe most importantly, write them down! Writing down your goals and posting them where you can see them makes it more likely you will stick with them.

Another way to set new routines is by working together to create a daily schedule and hanging it on the refrigerator. When making a schedule, keep a few ideas in mind.

  • First, try to continue doing basic activities, such as waking up, getting dressed, and eating meals at the normal times.
  • Second, make a list of the tasks or activities that need to be completed each day and make sure everyone has what they need to complete those tasks.
  • Third, don’t forget to include time for fun and relaxing. Scheduling fun activities for after you finish your responsibilities can help you stay motivated.
  • Fourth, identify "time-wasters" that take up more of your day then you would like and set a timer to help you stay on schedule.

When making your daily schedule, make a list of things that are most important to do. Keep in mind activities you identified in the other sections of this program such as self-care, enjoyable activities, and valued priorities.

Decide which tasks and activities you want to do in the morning, afternoon, and evening. If you like (or need) more structure you can make an hour by hour schedule.

When you are setting your goals and making your schedule, try to avoid planning as if you need to continue to do everything you did before. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to adjust to the stressors in your life. Goals are useful when they help you set reasonable expectations for making small changes. Schedules are useful when they give you the comfort of structure and predictability. But goals and schedules can become a problem if you feel like you have to do things just because they are written down, rather than because those activities improve the quality of your life.

You can download a work sheet to help with goal setting and scheduling.