When was the last time you remember having a routine with you and your family? Lately, I’ve been longing for life to be what it was. Before the pandemic, our family would sometimes struggle without structure on weekends, early release days, holidays, and summer vacations. Add in activities that change from week to week, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Regardless of how crazy our weeks would get, we could always count on getting back to business on Monday. All you parents out there know what I’m talking about. Structure and routine used to hold our families together, making life at least predictable.
Here are some reasons why structure and routine are so important for tweens:
Tweens are empowered to be more independent.
They help to relieve Tweens’ stress and anxiety.
Helps tweens maintain focus when needed.
They make schedules more predictable, making room to plan time for fun and creativity.
Provides tweens with a sense of safety.
Helps build healthy habits that will stick with them into adulthood.
I don’t know about you, but over the past 9 months, structure in my house has gone right out the window. This pandemic is truly testing us parents. Some days I can laugh about it and some days I cry. As hard as this has been on us adults, it’s been much harder on our kids. As parents, we control and plan just about everything for them: before school, drop off at school, pick up at school, after school activities, dinner, and bedtime. Even when we aren’t with our children, other adults, such as teachers and coaches, are keeping them structured. As a mom, it has really hit me hard lately and at times I feel helplessly out of control, struggling to keep my children on track.
I think we can all agree that one of the hardest adjustments has been losing the predictable routines of school for our kids. I’ve personally kept my son home, and it has taken some additional strategies to keep him on time going from one virtual class to the next. Since he just started middle school, he was also given his first phone. After a few weeks of getting used to not having a middle school bell ringing to help him get up and move to the next class, we added alarms on his phone to help remind him when it was time to login to the next class. This has given him both responsibility and independence even in our home. As my son is now smack dab in the middle of his tween years, these little bits of structure will help shape who he will become as an adult.
When my girls were in their tweens, I also helped them learn to create their own structure. This was particularly important as everything about them was changing quickly and most days I knew deep inside they felt completely out of control. Their bodies were changing, their attitudes were evolving, new schools, new friends, nothing stayed the same from day to day. Rather than continue to do for them, I helped them to learn how to develop their own routines and structure.
A strategy that I used with them was creating lists, especially at times when schedules got hectic and independence was becoming very important. Both my girls dealt with anxiety and often couldn’t get to sleep because they worried about their schedule for the following day. We all started a very healthy habit of writing a to do list for tomorrow. This cleared their minds, allowing them to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. We would say that all of our to dos and worries could wait on the paper until the next day. To this day, both my girls (who are both adults now) are list makers, and they often tell me how much it still helps.
Here are some other ways to help provide structure and routine for your tween during the pandemic:
Develop a nighttime routine to help them relax and get ready for sleep.
Eat dinner at the table together as a family as often as possible.
Encourage your tween to use a planner to help them organize their school schedule and classwork.
Provide them with the space and support to get some exercise.
Schedule fun family game nights or movie nights to celebrate the end of the week on Friday or Saturday.
Have your tween write in their All of Me Journal each day!