Using routines to support family wellbeing during physical distancing

This article was developed by Raising Children Network in collaboration with Meredith Rayner, psychologist.

For health and wellbeing during physical distancing, children need a sense of security, healthy eating, physical activity, good sleep, play and quiet time. You need these things too.

A good way to make sure you all get what you need for physical and mental wellbeing is to plan a new daily routine.

How routines can help children and teenagers during physical distancing
Routines let children know what to expect. This means they can help children and teenagers feel safe and secure. This is really important during physical distancing when children and teenagers might be feeling stressed, worried, frustrated or just bored.

If children and teenagers need to do schoolwork, a routine can help them get through lessons and keep up with learning at home. Likewise, you can make time for different kinds of play in your children’s routine – for example, outside play, quiet play, craft, reading, digital play and so on. This can help your children get a good balance of activities into their days at home.

Routines can help children and teenagers stay healthy and hygienic too. For example, more careful handwashing can be part of the routine, as can exercising, eating and going to bed at regular times.

Also, routines can reduce stress, and lower stress is good for children’s immune systems.

How routines can help you during physical distancing
Routines can help you to:

  • get through your daily tasks, freeing up time for your children and time for yourself
  • share out household chores in a fair way while everyone is at home
  • feel like you’re doing a good job as a parent
  • feel more organised and in control, which lowers your stress
  • step back from sorting out disputes – for example, if Wednesday night is one child’s night to wash up, there’s no need for a sibling fight about who does the job.

Why routines are good for family relationships
Routines can strengthen family relationships.

For example, if you’re all at home during physical distancing, it might be easier to share regular family meals. And family meals can be a great time for you to check in on each other.

If you have younger children, reading a story together before bed can be when you and your child have special, comforting time together during physical distancing. For older children and teenagers, a regular card game could work in the same way.

Here’s a tip: why not make time for gratitude during your family routine? This is about regularly sharing something from your day that you’re grateful for. It can help you all to feel good and stay positive.

You don’t need to schedule every part of your day into a family routine during physical distancing. It’s also good for you all to have free time to relax. And if you have older children and teenagers, it’s important to involve them in discussing and developing your family routine. The more say they have in the routine, the more likely they are to stick with it and get the most out of it.