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Hattiesburg Clinic

Which kids thrive with structure and routine? All of them.

By: Lauren M. English, PA-C

Children, with or without ADHD, thrive with structure and routine. When we talk to our patients, we often hear the parents report more behavior problems during holiday breaks and weekends. Adding structure and a predictable routine can help curb negative behaviors and habits. When children understand what expectations are in place for them and what is coming up next in their daily activities, we see their behavior start to improve.

Even adults do better with routine and structure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our daily routines (and our children’s) upside down. Our children are now able to stay up later in the evenings and sleep longer in the mornings because they have not been in school. They have more availability during the day for screen time usage. They eat their meals at different times than they did prior to the pandemic. And on some days, they may not even brush their hair. With the lack of routine, we see our children struggle with impulse control, lack of motivation, mood swings, and much more.

During this time, a lot of parents have commented, “We need school to start back ASAP.” This may sound like a cry for separation from their children; however, for a lot of our families, it is a cry for routine so that their children’s behavior will improve.

The question remains: How do we create routine without a routine? As parents, we make one and stay consistent. No matter what our emotions are at the time, our children need us to be consistent.

Some of the following ideas can create the structure that can be in place for our children, with or without summer break, the COVID -19 pandemic, traditional school, virtual school, or the weekends.

    • Sleep schedule. Wake times and bedtimes should be in place at all times. Try to stay within 30 minutes on weekends.
    • Hygiene and dress routine.
    • Daily chores. Feeding the dog, making the bed, watering plants, setting the table, etc.
    • Have at least two of your meals set at a scheduled time. Sitting down with your children during mealtimes will help keep this consistent.
    • Daily activities. Get creative. Take family walks, do arts and crafts, read aloud together, etc.
    • Set daily screen time limits.
    • Have a family discussion about the upcoming day’s routine. Discussing the day’s forthcoming events helps them know your expectations and what to prepare for next.

Staying consistent as an adult is hard enough. We (parents) are humans too and have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well. I know it has made my emotions feel ten times more intense during this extended period of isolation and unknown.

Regardless, I would like to encourage all of us as adults and parents to create structure and routine for our children so that they can thrive and be their best selves.

For more information about creating structure and routine and other related concerns, or to schedule an appointment, please contact our office at (601) 261-5159.

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding yours or a loved one’s behavioral or mental health, please contact our office.

Connections serves as a regional resource center providing medical, educational, speech/language and dyslexia evaluation services for children and teenagers. Following diagnosis, we work with you and your child to determine the best course of treatment and therapy for them. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at 601-261-5159.