Tips for Making & Keeping After School Routines

A new school year comes with another chance to create an after school routine that will work out best for both you AND your child. How to create a routine that will FINALLY stick!

Step 1) Survey the Average Day:

Before introducing the idea of a new after school routine, sit down and think of everything that the family must do on a typical evening after school--homework, dinner, play time, family time, extracurricular activities, baths, and bedtime. Once you have a layout of the average evening and what you see as some necessary components move on to step 2.

Step 2) Map out a plan:

As with any new task, discussion and preparation are your biggest allies. Meet with your child and introduce the idea of collaborating on a new after school routine. Have them identify 2-3 ideas that they might like to incorporate into the routine (i.e. a snack before starting homework, 5-minute stretch breaks during homework time, reading a book with you at bedtime, etc.). Share your MUST HAVE components of the After School routine noted above in step 1. Together create a plan for how to incorporate everything into the evening.

Create a chart of the routine with your child and place it somewhere in the house where it will always be seen (i.e. the kitchen).

Working with your child will help you gain some buy-in, which will make the routine more effective in the long run.

Step 3) Consistency:

One of the biggest difficulties that I have found families have is that routines are created, then after a period of time factors come into play that make it difficult for the routine to continue.

Consistency is important for a routine to be successful. While extracurricular activities or troubles with difficult homework may push back the routine mapped out in step 2, ensuring that important components of the routine that mean a lot for both you AND your child (i.e. reading a book together at bedtime) are kept, will help hold the routine together for the following day when the routine is back to normal.

Step 4) Time:

New routines take time to become the house norm. Studies have found that it takes anywhere between 1 and 3 months for a new routine to become daily habit. During that time your child may forget steps (you may forget steps yourself), arguing and pushback might also occur. If you remain consistent as noted in step 3, the new routine will become habitual. Less reminders and pushback will occur.

Tips to Making a Successful Routine:

- Allow your child to rest for 1-hour after school. Children must listen to rules, complete work, and stay focused all day. It will be hard for them to go right into completing homework when they get home because their energy and attention span are drained! Let them play and hangout for the first hour when they are home. Place a timer so that they know when their 1-hour is completed.

- Give breaks during homework time--especially if you have a child who is easily discouraged, has an ADHD diagnosis, or frustrates quickly. A 5-minute break to stretch, grab a drink, or talk with you, can help them refresh for the next worksheet or textbook reading.

- Acknowledge when your child has completed tough portions of their routine, such as homework time or cleaning up after dinner. Affirm them when they stick with the new routine for the day. This validation will reinforce their desire to keep up with the routine.

- Understand that in the beginning you will have to do a lot of reminding and tabs keeping as your child learns the routine. If they forget, this is not a moment to reprimand, but a moment to review the routine chart that you two have created.

- Consistency, consistency, consistency--1 day of chaos is not going to destroy the routine as long as the routine continues the next day.