Keeping Your Child’s Routine in a Co-parenting Environment

 In Behaviour, Communication, Divorce, Rules

By Monique Engelbrecht
Kids Life Coach
Play Well Live Well Kids Life Studio

There is a lot of research pointing to the mental health benefits of having a daily routine. It can reduce our stress levels, it anchors us and gives comfort, we’re more productive, we can eliminate bad habits, and it improves our sleep. This said, giving our children a daily routine to follow is just as important and beneficial, if not more, for them. Before the divorce, your child was used to a certain way of life and now that there is big change it can be challenging for children to adapt. Fortunately, children are the most resilient little beings and they can adapt well with your support.

A child of divorce may be dealing with so many emotions, they may have so many questions, life as they know it is just not the same anymore. This can be very stressful for them, so you want to make this adjustment as smooth as possible for your child. Regardless of the arrangements you have with your ex regarding visitation, whether you have joint custody, or your child has weekend visits with your ex, it is important to try and keep your child’s daily routine the same between houses. Sticking to the same daily routine between houses, will provide your child a sense of control in their environment. Of course, things won’t be one hundred percent the same in the different homes, but sticking to the basics like packing things away, doing the chores, bath time, brushing their teeth, all of this creates a structure that is familiar for your child.

Implementing this can be very challenging for divorced parents. You yourself are dealing with very strong emotions, anger, hurt, possibly resentment. It can be very tough to come to an agreement with your ex regarding your child’s routine, discipline, etc. The first thing you can do as parents is acknowledge that you are the adults and your child comes first. Set up a regular time with your ex to discuss things regarding your child, either monthly or weekly. Treat it is a business meeting and stick to the topic at hand- have a meeting agenda if you must. This is not the time for you to discuss the past and any issues you may still have. Stay calm and respectful towards your ex and keep reminding yourself that you are here to discuss what is best for your child.

When discussing routines for your child with your ex, you can agree to the same tasks that your child must do at either home, but you do not always have to agree on how these tasks are carried out. Perhaps your child won’t do homework at the time you would like, or your child may do less chores, it is not the end of the world. The most important thing is that your child is still doing homework, still enjoys family dinner time, still does some house chores, still has their bedtime routine, things are kept similar. Do not get upset and try to control everything. Things won’t be exactly the way you want it at your ex’s house. It is either not practical for the other parent or they may just have a different parenting style. Respect this and learn to be more flexible.

Regardless of your differences, your child comes first, and you want to give them stability and comfort in their new way of life. What can help for similar routines is a laminated routine chart with pictures that your child can easily follow. Put the routine chart in your child’s room in both homes. This way, both parents agree to what must be done and the child develops a sense of autonomy and control between the two households as they follow their daily routine. Even though each household is different in their own unique way, your child’s routine is kept as close to what they are used to.

monique chart - Keeping Your Child’s Routine in a Co-parenting Environment

Here is an example of what my routine chart looked like growing up. More and more stars made their way on the chart as I got used to my routine 🙂

This routine chart can also help eliminate arguments and conflict with your child. Your child may say “but I don’t have to do this at dad’s house”, or “mom would let me do that” then you can simply remind them that each household is different in their own way but you agreed with your ex that certain things must get done, regardless of when or how, homework is still homework and chores are still chores, and that’s why you have the routine printed out for everyone to remember. Of course, if your ex is not sticking to this routine then calmly bring this up on the agenda during your next meeting. They keyword is “calmly” and make suggestions instead of demands. Use words like “can we try…” or “would you be willing to…” or “I’ve noticed our child wakes up easier in the mornings if they go to bed at this time”. Also remember to not rant and rave to your child about how you feel if there are hiccups with the routine. Your child is not your life coach.

I used to have a laminated routine chart and received stickers at the end of each day if I completed all my tasks. The gold stars started getting expensive, so I started drawing my own stars. This was much more rewarding because I felt proud to give myself that star. I was so proud of my clean room that I would blindfold my mom and lead her into my room for the great reveal. Yes, I was quite the messy one and my mom and I had endless fights regarding this. However, as I carried on with my routine chart, I started drawing my stars even before completing the task just to feel that pride. I would then complete the task afterwards and this taught me self-discipline. I knew that I couldn’t lie to myself or my mom, so I had to make sure I got things done. By then it was all so part of my routine and not only did this help me, but it helped my mom too. We still joke to this day about how she could squeeze in a late sleep on the weekends because she knew I would make my breakfast and get dressed on my own. Most importantly, this helped me when I went to visit my father every second weekend. If my father had to leave early for work, I was able to get up, take a bath, make my cereal and keep myself busy. More often I was with my stepbrothers when my father and stepmother had to attend events or go to friends. I was more than capable of packing my bag properly before going back to my mom the next day, I would take a bath, and get ready for bed. My stepbrothers were much older than me but if they didn’t make dinner that night, I made some cereal for dinner and could sort myself out because I was used to doing this every morning.

The most important thing you can do is focus on how your child is at your home when they are in your care, whether it is for the weekend or the week. The routine chart can help your child get used to a healthy routine and teach them independence and pride when they are able to reward themselves. With the same routine chart at the other parent’s home, your child will feel that security and familiarity, and it will be easier for them to do what they need to do.

By Monique Engelbrecht
Kids Life Coach
Play Well Live Well Kids Life Studio
#healthyroutine #divorce #rewardchart #positiveparenting #childofdivorce #kidslifecoach #gauteng #foundation

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