Last week we talked about some keys for helping our young children deal with transition. You can view the whole post here, but I'll review the points briefly:

  1. Talk your children through what's happening and what's coming next.
  2. Give lots of grace but maintain healthy boundaries for security.
  3. Stay calm yourself - even very young children take cues from your emotions and reactions.

So moving on to the last key on my list, the topic of today's post -

   4. Establish routines as a family and stick to them as much as possible.

Little people thrive on routines. (Big people do too, actually!) I am not talking about schedule. Waking up at 6am sharp and having breakfast at 7:28 every day of the week works great for some people in certain situations, but certainly NOT in times of transition! A routine, on the other hand, is whether you wake up at 6am or 9am on any given morning, you have a certain order of events to follow after getting out of bed. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

  • While you're having your devotions, your little ones have "quiet time" on their own blanket looking at books or playing with quiet toys.
  • When a child wakes up, you have ten minutes of snuggle time on the couch before jumping into the morning chores.
  • Snack time is a time of reading books with mommy.
  • Immediately after lunch, children go straight to bed for naps, no matter whether lunch is at 11:30am or 1pm.

These are only examples of possible routines, not suggestions of what your routines should be. The point is to have certain "events" in your day that are done in basically the same way every time, day in and day out. So as much as possible, you establish your routines during stable, normal seasons of life, and then stick to them as closely as possible during transitions. If you always read a book during snack time, then pack a book in your carry-on to do snack time in the airport. If you always snuggle first thing in the morning, then make sure you wake everybody up early enough to have snuggle time in the motel room, too.

 A few more points about routines:

  • Be sure to consider the seasons of transition that don't actually involve moving or traveling. For example, adding a new sibling to the family is a big transition for everyone! Try as much as possible to maintain routines through those times as well.

  • Focus on one change at a time. Don't try to introduce several new routines at once, or change more than one routine at a time. The point is security and stability, so make changes slowly.

  • BEDTIME - we have found sleep to be the single biggest challenge in times of transition and travel. Strange places and new beds often make for traumatic bedtimes and frequent night wakings. One thing that has helped with this challenge (it's not the magic cure - if you've found that please let me know!) is a 'set in stone' bedtime routine. It doesn't matter where we are or how late it is, there are certain "rituals" that we go through before tucking the boys in bed - including family prayers and special songs. This seems to give them a security and a calm-down time that makes settled sleep come more easily - at least, most of the time! We also carry a whole tote-bag of "stuff" that's necessary for bedtime in strange places (and at home) including stuffed animals, blankets, and even our favorite nightlight!

  • Sometimes there's just no way to stick to routines, and our children do need to learn to be flexible. Don't be too hard on yourself - or on them - if you are unable to keep your normal routines. But I have found that picking them up again as soon as possible is helpful in keeping everybody happy and sane!


So what can you add to this discussion? Any routines that have worked well for your family? Do you have tips to share for establishing or keeping routines? Please join us in the comments!

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  • Guest - Sara

    Thank you, Melissa, for some great posts on helping my children through this transition period we're in. I especially appreciated the differentiation between "routines" and "schedules." Even in our time oriented culture, children remain event oriented. I, a time oriented gal, gave myself a very low grade for saying things to my children like, "It's late tonight. We'll do stories tomorrow." :( But now that I'm aware, I'll try to change my ways.

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  • Yes, children are very event-oriented! I too am guilty of rushing or pushing my little people when their time-frame doesn't fit mine, and it rarely works well. On the other hand, this wasn't a test to grade yourself on!

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  • Guest - william jhone

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