Many families struggle with having a certain routine for their children and that tends to lead to them not paying enough attention to their children’s habits which can lead to the child being influenced and let astray. For many families, the start of the school year can be exciting and challenging. It is a time for a change from the less-structured days of summer to more rigid patterns, including earlier bedtimes and homework sessions.
In addition, new faces (e.g., teachers, classmates), new schools (e.g., the move from an elementary school building to middle school), and increasing expectations (e.g., introduction of letter grades, a heavier homework load) can trigger a mix of emotions in your child. A routine can offer a sense of stability during this transitional time.
More specifically, the time between when your child comes home from school and when they prepare for bed can be hectic. In these few short hours, many children have competing demands, like participating in extracurricular activities, completing homework, and sharing in household responsibilities. However, you may be able to control what activities you do during this time and have flexibility in the choices you and your family make. Creating an after-school routine can help you and your child feel organized and make the most of these hours together.
The Importance of Routines
Children feel more confident and secure when their daily activities are predictable and familiar. Structure in the form of routines can reduce struggles and provide a safe and secure environment for children. Consistent daily routines allow children (and parents) to feel in control of their environment by helping them understand what is happening next and what is expected of them. You can promote predictability and structure for your family by establishing an after-school routine.
Components of an After-School Routine
Every family has commitments or priorities that may dictate what each family member does and when they do it. An after-school routine will vary depending on these commitments or priorities, and it may take some time to figure out a rhythm that works best for your family. Below are some important aspects of a routine you may want to consider as you develop your own after-school plan.
Your child is likely searching for something to eat immediately after arriving home from school. A healthy snack can help manage your child’s hunger and boost their nutrition. Offer snacks that are low in sugar, saturated fat, and salt, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Keep after-school portions snack-sized to not interfere with dinner time meals. Planning ahead for snack time and having snacks easily accessible can help your child make healthy food choices. For suggestions for healthy after-school snacks, review Thrive’s Cooking to Thrive resource.
Many children have homework, and younger students may need a parent’s assistance to complete some of their homework. However, as your child matures, they can often begin to work on schoolwork independently. Set a dedicated time each day, and allocate a specific location that is comfortable, has limited distractions (e.g., no television, no phones, no active siblings), and provides access to the supplies your child needs to complete their assignments. If possible, stay close to your child during this time so you can provide any support that is needed.
Students who participate in extracurricular activities may experience greater academic success, new opportunities for character development and positive social development and may develop an interest in community involvement (Christison, 2013). Further, participating in organized youth sports can lead to immediate and long-term benefits for children, such as lower rates of anxiety and depression, increased life satisfaction, and improved physical health (President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition Science Board, 2020). Extracurricular activities can help your child obtain the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity and can offer opportunities for your child to develop personal interests and discover their strengths and weaknesses. Since most extracurricular activities take place after the school day, be sure to take these activities into account when planning your after-school routine.