In times of uncertainty, count on routine

By Tonja Dodd
Family in kitchen cooking and doing homework routine - Vitality

During these uncertain times, we may feel that there are many things we can’t control which can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. While this affects adults, children have also had dramatic changes to their routines, access to family and friends and lack a general sense of normalcy.  

For adults and children alike, a routine can provide a sense of normalcy and comfort during difficult times. Even though the world outside of our homes may feel strange and uncertain, a routine is something we can count on. It’s important to outline a daily schedule to establish a routine and sense of security. 

For those with children, you’ll likely have the most success with sticking to a routine when you involve your kids in establishing it. When you involve children in creating their own schedules, they feel invested and heard. A schedule also works best when it offers structure yet allows for flexibility. Allow for transition time and flexibility within time blocks. Teens will respond better to structure that allows for independence and freedom, while younger children crave routine and having each hour structured.   

One way to think about a schedule for the day is to mirror the school-day schedule. (If your child is an infant, toddler or preschooler, a routine is a powerful tool for setting them up for success too). This schedule is something your child is already accustomed to, so mirroring it can ease them into a home routineEven when school is out for the summer, aim for the same bedtime, wake-up time and structured day. Doing so ensures that children receive proper rest and their schedule is aligned with your day. Khan Academy is a helpful resource for defining a structured day for all ages. See their proposed daily schedule here. 

When you make the schedule, be sure to plan for lunch, snacks and physical education. Offering kids healthy meals and snacks at regularly scheduled times helps keep their moods steady while those who engage in active play and exercise experience health benefits and are more attentive when learning. If you’re looking for ideas on how to stay active, consider:  

  • Stretching before breakfast 
  • Aiming for more steps today than yesterday 
  • Dancing at lunch 
  • Playing a sport in the afternoon 
  • Taking a family walk after dinner 

Once you establish a routinewhy not pepper in some unscheduled fun too? Your children will appreciate this balance and you can always pick up the schedule afterward! We would like to hear your tips on ways you are creating routines and fun for your family during these unprecedented times. 


Tonja Dodd, MPH, is a Senior Health Strategy Analyst at Vitality Group where she translates clinical guidelines into risk appropriate health promotion strategies to engage members in healthy behaviors. Her background is in public health with 25 years of experience designing, developing and delivering health and wellness programs and products. Tonja finds her healthy place is being active outdoors and spending time with family, friends and pets.

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