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The Importance of Family Routines

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By: Shelly Vaziri Flais, MD, FAAP

Every family needs routines. They help to organize life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Children do best when routines are regular, predictable and consistent.

Finding a flexible balance

One of a family's greatest challenges is establishing comfortable, effective routines. Ideally, they should achieve a happy compromise between the disorder and confusion that can arise without them, and boredom that can come with too rigid a structure that offers children no choice and little flexibility.

As a parent, it helps to review the routines in your household to ensure that they accomplish what you want. Here are some tips.

Weekday mornings

  • To help mornings go more smoothly, put as many things in order as possible the night before.

  • Keep wake-up routines cheerful and positive. If your child just isn't a "morning person," consider some upbeat music to help get the household going. Music is a natural mood lifter.

  • Encourage your child to eat breakfast, even if they are not hungry in the morning. See Breakfast for Learning.

  • Help avoid last-minute squabbles by offering kids a choice when possible. For example: "It chilly out, so you should wear a jacket. Would you like to wear the blue one or the red one?"

  • Finally, round out each morning by saying goodbye to your young child. A simple hug and a wave as they head out the front door or slides out of the car are very important. They will give your child a positive feeling as they begin the day's activities. See How to Ease Your Child's Separation Anxiety.

After school

  • During middle childhood, children need adult supervision. Many schools offer excellent after-care options for working parents, or transportation to reliable child care organizations.

  • Healthy after-school routines may include a snack, exercise, relaxation, and study, in whatever order works best for your child. In general, after 6 to 8 hours of school, children need time for active play.

  • Active play lets them better able to complete the tasks before them, to get their energy out, and to help them get the physical activity they need to stay healthy and fit.


  • Dinner should be an important time for your family. As often as possible, all family members should eat together at the dinner table, without the distraction of electronic devices or television. See Benefits of Family Meals: Eat Together, Thrive Together.

  • During dinner the family can share the day's activities and participate in enjoyable conversation. Everyone should be encouraged to take part. Discourage negative comments and criticism. Conversation starter card decks encourage positive communication.

  • After dinner, your kids can help clean up, do other chores such as emptying the garbage, and finish their homework. Once these are done, they can relax by reading, having a conversation, playing games or limited screen time.



  • Although weekend schedules are different for different families, they can be good times for family togetherness. You might go grocery shopping as a family, visit museums and zoos, tackle chores that everyone participates in, or go on family hikes or bike rides.

  • Especially for elementary school-age children, who may be forming social bonds outside the family, consider inviting special friends to visit. You can share some family time and also get to know your child’s friends better. Simple is best—your child can invite a friend for dinner with your family followed by board games or a movie.

  • Keep in mind that while family time is essential, it is equally important for parents to set aside some time just for themselves, too. This can strengthen parents’ bonds with each other and sends a positive message to the children. Kids will enjoy their time with a trusted sitter while parents reconnect.

More information

About Dr. Flais

Shelly Vaziri Flais, MD, FAAPShelly Vaziri Flais, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified practicing pediatrician and mother of 4 children. An assistant professor of clinical pediatrics with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, she is the author of the American Academy of Pediatrics books,Nurturing Boys to Be Better Men: Gender Equality Starts at Home and Raising Twins. Dr. Flais is also editor-in-chief of Caring for Your School-Age Child, 3rd Edition, and a contributor for Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know. She has shared her reality-based parenting approach with national and local television, radio, online, and print news outlets.

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American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright @ 2024)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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