New Family Routines

December 19, 2018

Your family might need a new daily routine for many reasons. Here are some ideas to help you when you’re setting up a new daily routine.

  • When do you need a new daily routine?
  • Thinking about a new routine
  • How to design a new routine: steps

When do you need a new daily routine?

If you feel your family doesn’t spend enough time together having fun, a new routine might help. You could introduce family days, game nights, reading a book together or doing regular exercise.

If you have too much to do and not enough time, a new routine for demanding, hectic and stressful times of the day can help. For example, you might need a new routine for when you’re getting the family ready for school and work or preparing dinner.

You might also find a new routine helpful if something is regularly causing conflict in your family. This could be when you’re going shopping, or when the children fight over whose turn it is to feed the dog.

If you’re constantly asking or nagging other people to do things, or you’re getting frustrated and angry, this might also be a sign that you need a new daily routine.

Routines are particularly useful when you’re trying to help family members develop new habits, like good hygiene.

And routines can also help with completing chores, practising instruments or doing homework.

As your children grow and develop or you change jobs, you might want to revise your routines or create new ones to take these changes into account.

It can be easy to over-schedule family life. Routines have lots of benefits, but it’s also good for children and parents to have free time to play, relax or be creative.

Thinking about a new routine

Here are things to think about if you’re working on new daily routines for your family.

Family involvement

It’s good to start by talking about new routines with your partner before talking about them with your children. This way you can make sure you both agree and understand what your goals are.

By the time children are about five, you can talk about routines with them too and get their help with designing new routines.

Family goals

Routines need to meet the everyday demands of juggling activities for different members of the family, but they also need to meet more long-term goals. For example, if having regular quality family time is an important long-term goal in your family, try to have routines that allow room for this.

Changes in family life

It’s helpful to have routines that can be adapted as things change. For example, as children grow they can take on more responsibility for doing things like getting themselves dressed for school.

A new routine could also be part of an old one. For example, you might get your child to take a new medicine just before she brushes her teeth.

Family strengths

Successful routines often build on family strengths, so you can think about what your family members are good at and work these strengths into the routine. For example, if one child is better at getting up early, he could have the first turn in the bathroom.


Building fun or play into a routine can help it run smoothly. For example, your morning routine could include time for a favourite book if your child gets ready for school on time.


Routines work well if everyone does their fair share. This is about everyone doing what’s fair for their age and ability, rather than everyone doing the same amount. For example, your preschooler might carry the cutlery to the dishwasher, while your older child carries the plates and glasses and loads the dishwasher.


If you’re setting up a new routine, you might need to remind family members about it. But telling them what to do isn’t the only way to remind them.

You could use the end of a TV show to let your children know it’s time to start a new bedtime routine. Or you could give an older child her own alarm clock to get up in the morning. Simple lists, or even post-it notes, can be good reminders if they’re put up somewhere everyone can see. Young children might like to make a picture storybook showing the family routine.

Remember: it takes time to overcome old habits and learn new ways of behaving, so you’ll need to give your new routine time to work.

If your children aren’t happy about changes to a routine, try making smaller changes over time rather than one big change. And lookout for signs of effort, cooperation and success. Celebrate by giving lots of praise or even special rewards until the routine becomes part of what your children regularly do.

How to design a new routine: steps

These steps can help when you’re designing a new routine.

  1. Work out the routine’s goal

The goal of a new morning routine might be that your child is ready for school by 8.30 am – dressed, shoes on, had breakfast, teeth and hair brushed, and school bag packed with everything he needs for the day.

  1. List the individual steps in the order they need to happen

The steps for a new morning routine might be:

7 am – get up.

7.15-7.45 am – have breakfast and put plates in sink.

7.45-8 am – clean teeth, brush hair, put on sunscreen.

8-8.15 am – put on school uniform, socks and shoes.

8.15-8.30 am – pack school bag with lunch, books and so on.

This step involves working out the timing of the routine. How much time does each step take? What time will you need to start so you can get everything done and allow time for the unexpected?

  1. Work out what your child can do for herself, and where you’ll need to help

Think about which steps you can teach your child to help her move towards independence in the routine. For example, you might need or like to get your child’s breakfast, but perhaps she can clean her own teeth. Or she might be able to put on her school uniform, but you need to help her tie her shoelaces.

  1. Think about ways of setting up the routine for success

One way to do this is to make sure everyone knows what they’re expected to do in the routine. And are there any distractions that might get in the way of the routine? For example, does your child get distracted by the TV in the morning? If so, can you turn it off?

  1. Consider any new family rules

If you make some simple, clear rules about the kind of behaviour you expect, it will help your child know what to do. For example, you might have a rule about sitting down to eat breakfast.

  1. Try to build in time for talking or fun

For example, if you allow 30 minutes for breakfast, this probably gives you time to have a chat with your children as you all eat. Your children might like to tell you about what they’re looking forward to in the day ahead.

Before you put a new routine into action, talk everyone through the steps of the routine. Be prepared to do this more than once until it’s clear for the whole family.

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