Structure for the school year

28 January 2015

The year 2015 is well on its way and everyone is back at work and children are back at school. Many parents are hoping to set off on the right foot and establish a routine for their children to help prevent chaos at home and at school.

“Routine and structure go hand in hand,” says Retha Kruger, an educational psychologist of Cape Town. “Every family needs enough structure to give the children in it the stability and security they need.”

Retha says structure reduces anxiety in children and leads to a more peaceful atmosphere at home and at school. “When children know what will happen next they accept it more readily.”

But what should parents do to establish a successful routine for their children? “Start by setting up a daily schedule,” Retha says. “Make a table to stick to the fridge. Make it creatively.”

Although routine can be beneficial for children parents musn’t be too rigid about it.

Parents could for example make a clock and write the activity for that hour beside each hour on the clock. “If seven o’clock is bathtime, mark it as such on the clock. This teaches children not only the schedule but also how to tell the time.”

Nighttime can be a busy time in a household. That’s why experts say it’s important that activities take place at the same time every night so children learn there’s no way to get out of having a bath or doing homework.

“Nightime is an important family time,” Retha says. “Parents like to spend this time with their children after being at work all day, so they should create family routines the family can follow together. Even if it’s only watching the family’s favourite TV programme.”

Because households have children of various ages in them it’s not easy to treat them all the the same way. “Your older children might like to go to bed later than the younger ones. Instead of giving the older ones free rein let them use the extra time productively by doing homework or reading, which will cultivate a love of books.”

But it’s important for children to learn to go to bed at the same time every night. This leads to healthy sleep patterns and enables parents to ensure their children are getting enough sleep.

At night children should be made to prepare for the next day. Let children lay out the clothes they will wear the next day and pack their school bags. “This reduces confusion in the morning when everyone is rushing to get ready,” Retha says.

Although routine can be beneficial for children parents musn’t be too rigid about it. “Children must also be given time to play and enjoy themselves. This helps with their physical development, imagination and ability to socialise.

“Reward your children when they have taken out the garbage as part of their daily routine. Or surprise them on weekends by taking them to movies. This teaches them that obedience brings rewards.”

Educationists say a routine can be established at a young age. “As a parent you’re completely in control of your baby’s life. Use this power to your advantage. Time is an important factor here. Extend the time between feeds by a few minutes with every feed and gradually your baby will learn to go longer and longer between feeds. Before long you’ll be able to have a full night’s sleep,” Retha says.

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