In this current topsy-turvey world of ours, the title of this blog might seem a bit of a stretch. After all, we are in a world that is anything but “routine” right now. Things are changing daily, sometimes hourly and establishing any kind of routine or structure around our day probably seems like an overwhelming challenge. For many of us, we are now entering week 7 or maybe even week 8 of isolating at home and are no doubt feeling a little frustrated, lonely and maybe even a bit sad. With the arrival of more spring-like weather however, now is the perfect time to revisit your schedule, establish some new routines that work for your family and thus equipped – ride out the rest of this “storm” safely. Routines can help!
For most of us our days consisted of extensive planning. Getting up dressed and ready for school and work, planning lunches and dinners, (sometimes well in advance) scheduling hockey or soccer practice and allowing time for homework and other activities. Meals were often hurried affairs as we rushed from school and work to home and then back out the door again. Perhaps, more than anything else, this time in self-isolation has created an opportunity for families to be together in a way that isn’t so hurried. It’s allowed for more family dinners, more playtime and new and special memories to be made. That said if suddenly your over-scheduled world has been plunged into disorder – it might make coping a challenge! Here are some suggestions for re-establishing a routine that might help coping with continued isolation a little easier.
- Feel free to play a little “fast and loose” with bedtime and morning routines but not so loose that chaos ensues and over stimulated and overtired children can’t manage through the day. If during school time bedtime was 8pm, then 9pm might be just fine and allow them to sleep in a little bit in the morning. But structure is still important! Follow your regular nighttime routines (don’t forget to brush those teeth!) and then make sure the morning starts with a good breakfast, getting dressed and with a plan for the day. Children expect this – it’s what they’ve been doing for their whole little lives!
- If you haven’t already, establish zones in your home for work time and play time. This applies to both your children and you! Establish boundaries around when and how these zones are used. If you are working from home help your children to understand that there are certain times of the day when you cannot be interrupted and at the same time, if you have promised playtime or a walk outside at a certain time of day, do your best to adhere to that promise. It will help to build a level of trust in your child that if they follow the “rules” they too will be rewarded.
- Mealtimes and snacks are an important part of the routine. In this day of enhanced grocery shopping procedures, we are required to plan ahead and shop wisely so use this time to also give the kids a little bit of empowerment around snacking. Some families are using labeled baskets with pre-approved snacks that their children can get for themselves at anytime during the day. We like this idea – and hope that at least 75% of those snacks are “dental-friendly!”
- When it comes to schoolwork, we’ve heard about all kinds of strategies for handling the dreaded “parent as teacher” time. There have been some pretty funny stories and it seems for many parents, wine is a coping strategy! We’re not suggesting alcohol as a coping strategy however! Rather, the key here is to again, establish some routine around when school takes place and how it takes place. Short bursts of activity, followed by breaks that include a chance to get up and dance or walk and move around will help children to maintain a focus. After all, even school has nutrition breaks and recess and lunchtime! We could be doing this for the entire month of May and there’s a good chance (not that I have the inside scoop) that we’ll be doing this for the remainder of the school year so building this routine and then sticking to it is crucial. That said – just as we are Brampton’s gentle dental office, we urge you to be gentle with yourself as well! It won’t always be perfect and that’s ok.
- Finally, just because we can, take advantage of the return of the family dinner as another opportunity for routine and structure in the lives of our little ones. Get your kids involved in helping to make dinner by giving them age-appropriate tasks. Make mealtime a special time when everyone can share “news” of the day and it’s a good idea not to focus too much on the actual news. Everyone is feeling a little overwhelmed by what is going on in the world right now so use the family dinner as a chance to talk about what school work was done, if you had a funny incident on your zoom call or what you saw on your walk outside today. Take some time to play a game after dinner or do a puzzle. Learning can take many forms after all and learning about cooperation and rules or spatial awareness while puzzle building are all great learning opportunities!
In a world that was formerly quite structured for us all with strict timelines, deadlines and schedules, many of us are feeling a bit “lost at sea” and learning as we go. When suddenly thrust into a world of no routine, while enjoyable for perhaps the first week or two, it soon became overwhelming and for some, frustrating. Establishing a routine, even amongst all this CoVid chaos can help. We continue to look forward to the time when we can help you with maintaining your dental routines and in the meantime, ”don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”