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Episode 1: Routines 101: How to Involve Your Kids and Be Consistent





[00:00:02] Parenting is hard enough on a good day — but when you're facing a huge change like divorce, moving, a health crisis, or even a pandemic, it can be downright overwhelming. My name is Sara Olsher and I'm the founder of Mighty + Bright, where I help your family cope with the uncertainty that comes from life's major upheavals. Together we can help your kids take this hard time and turn it into resilience that they'll be able to use for the rest of their lives. Join me for quick and easy 5 to 10 minute episodes that will leave you feeling 100% positive that you got this.

[00:00:40] Good morning, friends. So I wanted to talk to you a little bit today about routines, because right now we are all feeling stressed about back to school. I don't know about you, but the idea of going back to distance learning after what happened in the springtime is kind of a rough idea, and the only thing that is scarier to me is sending my daughter back to school full-time.

So, you know, we're just going to work with things the way that they are and, you know, try to create as much comfort as we can for everyone involved without drinking too much.

So today, I want to talk to you about the number one thing that is going to make things easier for your family, and that is having a consistent routine. The only saving grace in the springtime for our family was our routine.

And part of what made that routine stick is that I got my daughter involved in actually creating it. So today, I want to talk to you about how you can do that for your own family. And if you're just starting out with some structure after a few weeks — or let's be real, months — of no or very little structure, we're just going to start out with a morning and evening routine and leave the stuff in the middle a bit loose. I mean, realistically, we don't want to stress ourselves out anyway. And having something that's too rigid is just going to stress you out. 

[00:02:12] And it's going to make you get on your children's backs all the time, and then they're going to be resentful and it's just going to be a lot of fighting. And none of that is good or peaceful or fun. So we're not doing that.

So the other tip that I have for you, aside from just keeping it loose, is also to make sure that you are including physical activity as a way to anchor your routines. So for us, that looks like walks around our neighborhood every morning.

At the end of my daughter's morning routine, we take a walk with the dog, and every evening around dinnertime, we will take a walk with the dog again. It's good for the dog, and it's good for us physically.

But also mentally, it just breaks apart the day. So we're not having the morning and the day and the evening all blending together —which is really easy to do in the middle of a pandemic when you're mostly staying home and you don't have school or work, which usually break those things apart. So we're creating a commute, basically.

Here's how to get your kid involved in creating the routine. First, you're going to decide generally what goes in the routine. You know on my website, I just wrote a blog post about this, and it has some general routines based on age groups that will help you come up with a baseline or some ideas on how to create this for yourself.

[00:03:48] But I think you pretty much know what your kids need to do in the morning. They need to get dressed, brush their teeth, go to the bathroom. It's different for younger kids versus older kids. And yes, this can be done no matter what your kids' ages: Two year-olds can be involved in creating their routine, just like a ten year old can.

I have a free download on my website, which is basically a piece of paper with blocks you can fill in yourself, either on your computer or by hand. If you don't feel like downloading that, no worries - you just need a piece of paper. Cut it up, and on each piece of paper or in each box, write down each thing that you want your kid to do in the morning.

[00:04:59] Leave some blank so that when your kid is doing this with you, if you've forgotten something that's very important to them, like rearranging their stuffed animals. When I did this with my daughter, I completely forgot that the pet rat needs medicine every morning and evening. Your kid can fill in the blanks for themselves, which gives them even more ownership over the routine.

Fill in each one of them and then bring your kid into the room and say, "I want us all to be healthy and happy. And I read online that a big way to do that is by making sure that we do the same things in the morning and the same things in the evening every day. And that's not chores. It can be fun stuff, too. But I want us to figure out what we should be doing together."

If you have a younger kid, you're basically just going to simplify that by saying something like, "here are the things we need to do in the morning. Let's decide how to do that together. These are the things that I thought we could start with. But if you think I missed anything, like we have some blank pieces, too, so you can fill it in."

Let your kid arrange the order in which they are going to do the routine. So for my daughter, I used that printout from my website. She cut it up and then arranged all the little pieces in the order that she wanted it to happen.

[00:06:14] Then I took a picture of it with my phone and I used that to make it into something cute that we could hang on the wall. I use this printable, but you can do whatever you want. As my daughter would say, you do you! You don't need to use any of my stuff in order to do this. This is super easy.

If your child has a learning difference like ADHD, you can make multiple versions of the printable and put it all over the house. That's actually why I created that printable in addition to the magnetic routine chart I have! In our house, we really need to have one in every room because my daughter will forget what she's doing halfway through it. And it's really important that she has something visual in lots of places.

So. Now you've got this cute printable routine chart or whatever you've created. It's on the wall. And now the question is, how do you get your kid to do it without nagging them? Because nagging is no good. Nobody wants to do that.

[00:07:33] Realistically, you are going to be the difference between this routine getting done and not getting done —the routine has to be consistent. And in this kind of climate, it's really easy for me to forget, which means the routine might not get done.

So I rely on robots. In short, timers are your BFF. I might have a love-hate relationship with Alexa generally, but that gal is really helping us right now.

[00:07:53] So you can set a timer for specific times. I asked my daughter when she thought she should start her routines. She said she wanted to be doing 15 to 20 minutes of iPad time in the mornings, which I'm totally fine with. So I went into the settings on her iPad and set it so that her screen time limit for that app was twenty minutes.

[00:08:21] When her twenty minutes are up, it brings up an alert that says, "your screen time is over," and she knows that's when she needs to start her routine.

Now, the reason I did that is because it's summertime and her wake-up time isn't consistent. Like, I don't know what has happened — she must be a pre-teen or something because she no longer wakes up really early in the morning. Sometimes she's waking up at eight thirty. Sometimes she's waking up at ten thirty.

And I want to make sure that we're consistent. If an alarm goes off at nine a.m. every day, sometimes that might mean that she's had an hour of iPad time and sometimes she misses the whole thing altogether. But you can also set timers if your kid has a wake up time.

And then for the evening, similarly, the evening routine begins after we've had dinner and, you know, relaxed for a little bit of time. She'll be playing Minecraft or something, and I've set a similar alarm there. So in short, these robots are a stand-in for you in the nagging department.

[00:09:18] I truly think this is the number one thing that is going to help your family. And if you have any questions at all, I would be more than happy to answer them so you can shoot me an email or you can find me on Instagram @saraolsher.

 I'm happy to answer any questions that you have. And if you have found this helpful, please share it with people that you know, because my goal in life is to help kids with uncertainty and really nothing more uncertain than going back to school in the middle of a pandemic. Thank you so much and I hope that you have a peaceful return to school.