Column,  Family

Establishing a proper daily routine for the family

by Jack Alexander C. Herrin, MD

Life today seems a tad bit more hectic than what we were used to when we were younger. There was less traffic, and more free time to play and spend time with our parents and relatives. We had more opportunities to engage in hobbies or just bum around at home. These days, however, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to do everything that needs to be done. We spend more time awake, leaving less time for our bodies and minds to rest. The same can be said for our children.

Why does my family need a daily routine?

Proper time management is often needed to maximize our family’s waking hours and balancing the need to sleep. We often work during the day, and our children go to school. This leaves only a short window in the late afternoon and early evening, wherein we can have quality time to spend with them. Having a routine helps everyone establish expectations and anticipate their own needs and plan their actions in tandem with those of others.

What can I do to help my children maximize their time?

Establish a fixed study period during the day.

Let your children know that study time is non-negotiable. Whether it is in the late afternoon or early evening, set a definite time wherein our children will have to start bringing out their books, regardless of whether they have homework or not. If they finish early, they can rest up a bit, but are still encouraged to study in advance or review their work.  Any circulars that have to be answered and returned should be brought out, and teaching the children to fix their bags by themselves at the end of the day is also important.

Meal time is quality time.

During meal time, we can encourage our children to eat well and participate in conversations around the dinner table.  Gadgets and other distractions should be discouraged during meals. Set a predetermined time for when they are expected to finish, but emphasize that the primary goal is not to eat fast and leave the table. Everyone should eat the right amount of food, and spend time with the family. This allows us to model proper eating habits, encourages the children to open up and freely talk about their day at school, and teaches them to speed up or slow down to accommodate others.

Cooling down means cooling down.

Downtime after dinner and after getting all the school work done can be something children look forward to every night.  Allow for family activities, or “me time” for older children to help wind down. But establish limits, and make sure the family is not even more wound up and active before preparing for bed.

Establishing consistent sleeping hours.

The amount of sleep a child gets per day varies with their age and level of activity. A newborn child may require between 14 and 18 hours of sleep a day. Toddlers and preschoolers may require 10 to 14 hours, including afternoon naps. A school-age child, who will probably be in class the whole morning and part of the afternoon, requires 8 to 12 hours of sleep. Meanwhile, a teenager, despite his or her busy schedule, will still need roughly 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day. Adults still require roughly 6-10 hours per day as well. Set an appropriate bedtime to maximize the amount of sleep your child can get.

Children (and adults) who are able to get enough sleep have been noted to pay more attention in school. They are more alert and are able to learn more efficiently. Their minds have more energy to accomplish the mental exercises that schoolwork requires (memory work, analysis and reasoning, computation). Our bodies are physically rejuvenated during sleep, allowing for repair of the daily wear and tear; getting enough sleep also decreases the risk for developing hypertension and obesity early-on. Mental health and endurance is similarly enhanced.

Setting a daily routine teaches everyone to anticipate and plan ahead. Whether planning for meals, school, study time, or bedtime, being consistent not only ensures proper discipline. It also helps everyone maintain a healthy body and mind, but a happy family as well.

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