Every morning you wake up early and leap straight into the usual routine – fighting with children to get them out of bed, dressed in school uniform, hair brushed, lunches made, homework in school bags, vitamins taken (and so on and so on). Of course this is all done at break neck speed or else you’ll all be late for school and work. After a hard day at the office, you’re greeted by your energetic bundle of joy who has more energy than you can even remember having. Although you’d love to spend some quality time with your child, you’re tired and would also like to put your feet up with a nice hot cup of tea or cold glass of wine. Within half an hour of walking through the door, youthful exuberance has turned into exhausting hyperactivity, and you’re in a power struggle with your child to get homework done, baths completed, teeth brushed, stories read and everyone into bed at a reasonable hour. You finally win the battle and manage to put your feet up for a short while before collapsing into bed yourself – only to start the cycle all over again the following morning with a brief respite over the weekend.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, then read on to find out some top tips for creating peace and order in your home – enabling you to play with your child AND have some time out for yourself. Each week for the next 6 weeks I will be offering a series of blogs on Positive Parenting, providing valuable and practical advise on how you can create a more peaceful home for you and your children.
The importance of routine: No surprises
You may feel as though your life is mundane and boring and that you do the same activities day in and day out. However, it is possible that your life and that of your children may lack routine. When people get very busy they tend to confront tasks as they arise, rather than planning ahead and sticking to a schedule. One very easy way of adding some peace and order to your family’s life is to start structuring your family’s days in a more regular way. In this manner, both you and your child will know ahead of time what is expected of you, and there will be less room for surprises – and therefore less room for crises. Importantly, children benefit from routine as it gives them a sense that life is ordered and therefore safe. In fact, children with ADHD are particularly responsive to the benefits that a routined daily schedule can offer them. Practically, this means several simple changes to your life:
1. Ensure that your child goes to bed at the same time every night and wakes up at the same time every morning. If young children are getting enough sleep at night, they should wake up on their own in the mornings without having to be woken up by you. Older children may need to be woken, but a great way of teaching them responsibility is to give them the job of getting themselves up independently by using an alarm clock. This has the added benefit of giving you one less task to do in the mornings.
2. Make sure that your child’s bedtime is not too late. Children need at least 9 hours sleep a night and adolescents actually need more sleep than younger children. A reasonable bed time will also enable you to have some quiet time in the evenings. This is an important way for you to rejuvenate yourself in a small way on a daily basis. If you are in a relationship, this will also give you and your partner a chance to have some much needed adult-time.
3. Decide what time is best for homework, and keep to this time every day. Children who really find it difficult to sit down and do their homework can be encouraged to complete it early in the afternoon. Reserving play or pleasurable activities for once homework has been finished is a good way of rewarding your child for a job well done. Conversely, withholding these same activities if homework is neglected is an effective punishment that will not require you to spend hours locked in a verbal argument with your child. An additional benefit is that delaying pleasurable activities until necessary activities are completed is an excellent way of teaching your child impulse control and delayed gratification – qualities that are a prerequisite for mature and responsible behaviour later on in life.
4. Decide on a time that suits your family for other daily tasks such as taking vitamins, brushing teeth and story time. Stick as far as you can to these times in a way that feels comfortable to you.
5. Children also need some free time. Younger children need time to play and older children need the space for activities that they enjoy, such as listening to music or simply lying on their bed day-dreaming. Try to make sure that there is some time during each day for your child to enjoy such age-appropriate fun activities.
Good luck with implementing some of these tips and incorporating them into your daily life. I would love to hear feedback from you on how they have helped to bring about peace in your home. If these steps have not helped, I would love to hear about your experiences so that we can try and understand what could be done differently.