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Establishing Structure At Home: The Key To A Healthy Transition Back To School

For many of us, this week marks the official shift out of summer and into the fall season. What has always felt like a very routine and structured transition, may now feel a bit more chaotic and uncertain. 
For those of us, children and adults alike, who experience anxious symptoms during transition, this specific moment in time may be even more triggering than usual.
We have spent the past six months trying our best to keep both mentally and physically healthy. We have worked to juggle occupational and familial obligations during a time when we didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. The notion of time management felt obscure and unnecessary. 
As this upcoming school year approaches, much of that uncertainty and variability will continue to surround us. And although we will be unable to predict the outcome of the innumerable unknowns, it will be necessary for each of us to focus our attention on those aspects of our lives in which we do have control. 
More specifically, it is essential that we work to instill consistent routines within our households, because the truth of the matter is that children thrive in structured environments. 
Structure instills a feeling of safety and security, while also improving focus, organization and productivity. 
How Do We Do That?
There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to establish a healthy routine for you and your family:
1. Simplicity is Key:
It can become overwhelming for everyone involved if there is rigidity and overcomplication within a schedule. Focus on some general times where it will be easy to implement structure. For instance, setting morning and bedtime routines so that everyone can begin and end each day with consistency.
2. Promote Family Involvement:
To minimize resistance and encourage cohesion, it can be beneficial to include all family members in establishing a new routine within the household. Give them an opportunity to express what aspects of their day may feel overwhelming or difficult to navigate. Listen as they express their perspective and the goals they may want to accomplish in this process. Not only does it validate their feelings, but strengthens communication, empathy and respect for one another. 
3. Stay Present:
As parents, it can be easy for us to assume that our children should be capable of following a routine once it is established. However, the reality is that we may need to provide assistance initially – walking them through the basic steps of their routine, reiterating the set expectations and helping them stay focused on the task at hand. This will involve fighting the urge to complete tasks for them, or to become distracted with our own personal obligations. If we give our full attention during this initial transition, we are ensuring that our children will be successful in mastering these expectations. 
4. Maintain Accountability:
As is life, there will be times where structure is impossible and simply getting our families through the day is all we can muster the strength to do. Although it is important to recognize that these days are inevitable, it is equally important to ensure that routine is re-established as quickly as possible. The longer the disruption, the harder it will be to stay motivated and on track. 
5. Encourage Flexibility:
As parents we know all too well that things don’t always play out the way we envision, making routine expectations a bit more difficult to navigate. Although this can ignite frustration within us, we must see these opportunities as teaching moments for our children. When plans shift, work to be proactive in reframing an impulsively negative perspective into a more solution oriented and positive mindset. 
6. Prioritize Self Care:
Routines afford us an opportunity to highlight the need for personal care at an early age. With that being said, it is essential that structure centers on tasks that prioritize hygiene, physical activity, nutritious eating and adequate sleep.
The patterns of behavior that our children observe now will become the foundation for how well they transition into independent and autonomous living. Take the time to instill in them these values so that they feel empowered to anticipate and overcome all of life’s uncertainties. 

Nikki Woods

Nikki Woods is a highly-sought after licensed clinical psychotherapist, founder of the Navesink Wellness Center in Rumson, New Jersey, and creator of Mindstream Daily Wellness App. After earning her Masters Degree at New York University, Nikki dedicated her career to studying the intricacies of the developing female mind.
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