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Creating Healthy Family Routines to Zap Stress at Home

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At-Home Learning is an early childhood education resource (for ages 2-8) providing families, educators and community partners with at-home learning activities, guides, and expert advice.

Imagine this: It’s morning and you’ve woken up later than usual. Your child is still lounging in their pajamas and they’re hungry. You need to walk the dog and clock in on your work computer, all before your child logs in for school on the tablet. When you’re finally getting ready to respond to the first of many emails, you remember your other child needs you for a virtual parent-teacher appointment. Going back to bed for a little bit looks quite appealing.

This scene might be all too familiar for the many families learning and working together from home this fall, which is why implementing a little structure can go a long way for everyone’s well-being.

A woman and a little girl jump together as they dance
Scheduling doesn't have to be boring — especially if you include time to relax and play!

Creating a healthy home structure can seem like yet “another thing” to do while processing and managing life in a pandemic, virtual schooling and your personal needs. Planning for uncertainty is stressful enough, but building new daily norms is a great way to ease some of that stress, become comfortable with uncertainty and stay present in your day.   

Wellness in Your Daily Routine 

Wellness is a dynamic process that pioneers change and growth within us. It incorporates various parts of our identity, such as our mental, physical and emotional health.  

Organization and balance are key parts of total wellness. Having a daily routine helps us get things done, while structure helps us streamline our internal and external systems. Without a healthy framework you can easily fall into habits and routines that hurt your ability to be productive, consistent and maintain baseline predictability. Routines — or a lack of them — also impact your mental health. Without a healthy routine, you can become overwhelmed, unmotivated, unprepared and burnt-out.  

Structure Starts with You  

Structure helps you plan for enough time to incorporate essential components of you and your child's well-being, such as eating a balanced meal and minimizing time constraints. The more you include a schedule that you align with and fit within your lifestyle, the less likely you are to stray away from your routine. This process helps you stay accountable to the things that matter most. 

Here are five questions to help you establish your routine:  

  1. What do you want to include in your routineand what do you need to include? Which items on your schedule are considered non-negotiable and which are essential for your well-being? 
  2. Are you more productive during the morning, afternoon or evening?
  3. How many people do you need consider/include in your schedule? Do you have children, parents, spouses, students or employees who need to be included on your schedule?
  4. What do you use to log your schedule (phone, calendar, journal, planner)? Write things down to help you keep track of what you have done. Don’t forget to check them off for immediate gratification!
  5. What do you personally need to build a wellness-based schedule(journaling, meditation, support)? 

As you create your schedule, spend some time reflecting on what you need to balance your responsibilities with your wellness. It’s important to build in a few slots to rest and recover. Trust me, your mind and body will be grateful you planned breaks, mealtimes and leisure activities around your responsibilities. Our weeks are busy and demanding, but the effort we put into building healthy avenues helps us stay grounded. Try color coordinating your activities or adding drawings or stickers that bring you joy. You can use a word processing program or a spreadsheet to create your own schedule, but a written schedule or agenda works just as well. 

At-Home Learning Mindset 

Incorporating a healthy and wellness-based home structure can help us all adjust and successfully participate in virtual learning. Below are a few tips to help you maintain healthy structures (and forgive yourself when that’s not possible) through the remainder of the semester at home.  

Implement a Growth Mindset  

A growth mindset is a beautiful way to help students feel empowered to work hard and connect their total wellness to success. It puts effort at the forefront of praise and success when communicating with others. Parents and educators are encouraged to place value on the student’s effort, decision making, abilities and capacity, and most importantly, ability to overcome challenges.  

Create a Learning Environment  

With more distractions and a higher level of comfort at home it’s easy to become complacent and uninterested. Incorporating a daily school schedule within the home helps you maintain a healthy learning environment. Along with the daily school schedule, it’s a good idea to create a daily home schedule. This is a great way to keep up with everyone's schedules and fit in wellness-based activities such as family walks, breaks and leisure activities. 

Increase Motivation   

Keeping fun school supplies handy is a great way to help kids feel motivated and excited for at-home learning. Also, encourage your child to find a space at home that makes them feel safe, in control of their learning and productive. They can decorate their space with their learning materials.  

Incorporating transition music to dismiss and begin a class period (instead of the bell they would hear at school) or to move on to another activity is another way to keep the environment fun. After all, we’re still at home, so it's okay to dance while learning.  

This lightheartedness can also be applied to mealtimes and physical activity. Encourage children to consider what they want to eat and discuss how healthy food intake can increase school performance. Talk to kids about how physical activity helps our minds reset and release tension from all that learning and how it also gives us a break from sitting in front of the computer. 

Communicate Difficulties  

Lastly, communicating difficulties during this process is key. Each day brings its own challenges and you are not a failure for not making a perfect schedule or meeting all your daily goals. Be patient with yourself and with others during these transitions. It’s important to understand that everyone is moving at a different pace and even though schedules help us stay connected and moving forward, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Take breaks, reach out for help and do your best!
Check out my blog post called Motivating Students for more tips.  

A Black woman (Sarafina Arthur-Williams) wearing glasses and a sleeveless blouse smiles at the camera
Sarafina Arthur-Williams is the CEO and founder of Intentional Simplicity LLC, a wellness-based mental health private practice. As a Black creative, she holds a master’s degree in psychology and discusses positive psychology, wellness and mindfulness through her online presence. She is ranked on Feedspot’s top psychology bloggers of 2020 and features as a guest speaker on a variety of mental health podcast. Learn more about Sarafina on her website. 

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